Why the compassionate side of leadership is so important right now.

I recently heard someone say ‘People won’t remember what you did during the Coronavirus crisis, they’ll remember how you were.’

Never was a truer word said. At the end of the day, our attitude and the way we treated or family, friends and colleagues people will trump any amount of productivity and performance

A friend recently described to me how she had struggled with a really bad boss. Though he was a remarkable man with numbers, he was utterly terrible at anything involving people. 

He lacked empathy, patience, humility and was rather fond of belittling people for pleasure. 

The business itself was filled with some truly wonderful and talented individuals and his behaviour actually created a uniting force between the teams, a common enemy so to speak. 

She stayed in contact with many of her former colleagues and sadly, like many companies, theirs has been negatively affected by the COVID crisis with redundancies, displaced working and low team morale. 

However, I was very surprised to learn of how her former CEO had behaved during this period. Connecting with his teams over video conferencing regularly had given him an insight to the commitment and sacrifices they made on a daily basis to the company, despite the fear and uncertainty of the present circumstance. 

The weight of the decisions he would have to make was now, very real. The people whose jobs were in jeopardy had homes he’d seen into. Renovations half finished. Children who loped into the background during calls. Family photographs hung in the backgrounds and tired, anxious faces in the foreground.

This boss suddenly realised that there were individual narratives to each of the cutting decisions needing to be made, and realised he wasn’t up to the task emotionally to deliver this with the leadership it deserved.

He sought a leadership coach who could help him develop the skills he lacked in personal connection, empathy and communication. And suddenly, the worst CEO she ever worked for had everyone's admiration.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has said; “There is no instruction manual for how to feel at this time.” We are all learning and feeling our way with a changing landscape. For leaders, this means learning not just for yourself but also for the people you lead.

The one thing most of us don’t need an instruction manual for, is how to be human. Your teams need assurance and support.  

Employees will have questions that you can’t answer. They will need assurances you can’t provide.

What you can do, is better understand their perspective and frame of mind to help you lead them in a meaningful and assured way.

What are your values and beliefs? Use these as a framework to your outward behaviour and decision making. A quick three question ask to get an insight to yourself right now;

  • What are your worries right now?
  • What gives you hope?
  • What are you looking forward to?

Then, if you feel it’s appropriate, ask these questions of your team members. If this feels too personal, use your existing knowledge of them to imagine their responses. Take that understanding to help you be the leader that acts with compassion.

If you would like to learn more about ways CEO’s should be communicating during the crisis this article gives a short 5 point summary.


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