Why do some leaders seem to possess a natural knack for putting people at ease in unsettling times? When everything is up in the air, leaders who excel in a crisis use compassion as a grounding force and guiding light.
Compassionate leaders have high emotional intelligence and display a combination of empathy, integrity, forgiveness, kindness and selflessness. They are clear-headed, consistent, and calm. In times of crisis, they have an innate ability to strike the right balance between acknowledging real fear and allowing room for much needed hope.
The principles of compassionate leadership transcend the circumstances of a particular crisis. The same rules apply from crisis to crisis because humans are humans. However, in the age of Covid-19, stakeholders and employees need to see these 7 practices of compassionate leaders more than ever:
1) Present a united front
Compassionate leaders collaborate with fellow executives and work collectively to set and communicate policies. Compassionate leaders understand that sending mixed messages and treating people differently will only instill fear, induce confusion and guarantee failure. Instead, they speak consistently and kindly with one clear voice across the organization and beyond to cultivate trust and resiliency among employees and stakeholders.
2) Demonstrate your own compassion
As a culture, we are too harsh toward each other. Moments like these are opportunities to set a compassionate tone that radiates and resonates throughout your organization and enhances the culture. Compassionate leaders seize the opportunity to cultivate company connections and to lay the groundwork for increased integration in the future.
3) Keep private fears private
Employees are looking to leaders for stability and confidence. The best leaders are like the eye of a hurricane. In the midst of ferocious winds and punishing rain is utter calm. Leaders who rise to the occasion acknowledge the threat swirling around them without projecting a sense of panic.
4) Communicate with candor early and often
Silence and indifference are dangerous. Fear tricks the mind into filling in gaps with worst-case scenarios and mistrust and misinformation spreads. Compassionate leaders communicate early and often to key stakeholders and with the utmost integrity and honesty to address concerns.
5) Decentralize decision-making
Leaders who decentralize outperform in tough environments. It makes sense. People on the ground understand what is needed and are positioned to make a powerful difference. Leaders who practice compassion stress to managers that they should resist the urge to micromanage and turn themselves into roadblocks.
6) Be responsive
Be available, listen patiently, and be responsive to questions and concerns. As the Covid crisis has unfolded, social distancing guidelines have evolved. Having the capacity to pivot on a dime in real-time to protect those who need it is imperative.
7) Don’t try to go it alone
Being compassionate applies to how you treat yourself too. You are only human. Stress is inevitable. Don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to others for input. You want to make sure that your decisions are as objective as possible and fear isn’t creeping in and clouding matters.
Leadership in a crisis means stepping up to shoulder the burden, and being the first to make sacrifices. It’s about listening and taking bold action to alleviate suffering and to protect the future. In times of Covid, compassionate crisis leadership can help organizations make it through to the other side of this crisis and carry organizations into a new future of cooperation and integration.