Leading with care: Why creating a culture of compassion matters
What does it mean to be a caring leader? A caring leader creates an environment where their team feels valued, appreciated, supported, and respected. Caring leaders are human-centered leaders who want to build genuine and lasting relationships with their teams. Effective leadership recognizes the importance of integrity and trust in developing and fostering healthy relationships in a team. Whereas performance, profitability, deadlines, projects, status updates, and results are the main focuses of “traditional” leadership, human-centered leadership is about putting your people first. It prioritizes people and ensures that success occurs because of people, not despite them. Ultimately, this leadership approach recognizes that promoting employee well-being will also improve business outcomes. At Humanicity, we help leaders build essential human skills to lead effectively in the modern workplace.
A caring leader is thoughtful. They don’t simply ask a surface-level question like “how are you?” but genuinely care about their team’s well-being. A leader with compassion will put the needs of their team members above their desires. They ask questions like, “what is something I can do to help?” and follow through with their actions. Your team knows if you’re putting up a facade. As leaders, we should honour our relationship with our team by ensuring our actions match our words. Thoughtful leaders understand their team’s time is valuable and recognize potential barriers that may hinder team members from coming forward and sharing their concerns and needs. Caring leaders work to dismantle these obstacles and help everyone on the team thrive.
The importance of caring leaders
As leaders, we should continuously create a culture and team where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences. Caring leaders are authentic and compassionate. They treat their team members with respect rather than as commodities and don’t exert tower over them to maintain control. They value their team and intentionally foster a positive environment. Caring leaders want to see their teams succeed in pursuing their goals. Kind and efficient leaders make a conscious effort to find ways to turn each member’s unique strengths into assets for the team. Most importantly, good leaders are honest and lead with humility.
What are the qualities of a caring leader?
According to Jacob Morgan, TED & keynote speaker focusing on leadership, the five common qualities that caring leaders have are: engaging with all employees, practicing empathy and self-awareness, understanding that caring leadership is a choice, seeing employees as humans, and fighting for a cause. In fact, research shows empathy is the most important skill leaders should have. Caring leaders are purpose-driven. They care about their team beyond simply success and productivity. Caring leaders show empathy with their team members and recognize and own their mistakes. A caring leader understands that creating a culture of compassion matters because the people on their team matter.
Caring leadership in a healthy workplace
In healthy workplaces where employees feel seen, heard, and supported, they are motivated to do their best work. This is why caring leadership in a healthy workplace is so important. As leaders, we want to create the best environment for our team to succeed and grow. This means addressing concerns thoughtfully, having relevant supports, and being open about your mental health. Good leaders lead by example.
Workplace burnout is a prevalent—and preventable—issue many people face. When team members (and leaders) are given a large number of tasks without adequate support, it can lead to burnout. As a result, many employees are leaving their jobs from a lack of appreciation and support. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, 35% of respondents left their job due to uncaring leaders. The writers state, “Focusing only on compensation or only on cultural factors won’t stem the tide of attrition. Business leaders must pay constant attention to both.” This is why healthy workplaces and desirable compensation are both crucial. As leaders, how can we demonstrate care to our team and cultivate a compassionate environment?
- Understanding employee needs
As leaders, we must understand the needs of our team members. Instead of rushing to do what we think is best, we should first take time to learn and listen. When we pay attention and actively listen, we can better support our team members when they individually share their unique needs.
- Leading with empathy and compassion
Leaders who lead with empathy and compassion help their employees feel supported and cared for. Empathy and compassion are crucial in a healthy workplace.
- Fostering a safe and inclusive community
A safe and inclusive community allows team members to be themselves. Caring leaders will intentionally seek ways to make their community a safe and inclusive space where team members are unafraid to share their thoughts.
- Demonstrating humility and vulnerability
Caring leaders put people first, demonstrate humility, and believe they have more to learn. They encourage cooperation versus competition. They accept responsibility for their mistakes, consistently seek feedback, and take the time to reflect
Putting people first through a human-centered approach
It’s not easy for leaders to cultivate a compassionate and caring culture in a workplace. Managing the tasks and responsibilities that come with leadership can be challenging. However, exceptional leaders understand the importance of a caring and supportive workplace where employees feel they belong. Good leaders are empathetic and understand the complex lives of their employees. They take time from their busy schedules to form genuine connections with their team. Caring leaders are considerate of their employee’s needs and provide on-going support.
The takeaway is this: when caring learners demonstrate compassion and understanding, they are putting the needs of their team first through a human-centered approach to leadership.