Leadership in a Time of Fear; The Need for Compassionate Leadership
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the need for effective leadership throughout all organizations—not just at the head of government—has never been more critical.
This pandemic has brought worry and fear to almost everyone – including leaders – for both personal and professional reasons. On top of the fact that many of us have experienced isolation, alienation, and a general sense of social disconnect while working from home, many of us also agonize over our finances, fear losing our job or status, and stress about a collapsing economy. We worry about catching the virus or having a loved-one catch it. We also have had to reconfigure and grapple with technology, childcare, housework, home hair dyeing, and other practical tasks, which have caused their own challenges.
The bottom line is that although studies show remote workers to be 13% more productive than office-based employees, the additional personal stressors and challenges that COVID-19 has caused people, require leaders to execute a leadership style that places a premium on empathy, flexibility and rapid adaptation to change. Simply put, COVID-19 necessitates Compassionate Leadership.
What is Compassionate Leadership? What can businesses do to develop Compassionate Leaders during COVID-19?
Compassionate leadership requires leaders to be sensitive to both people’s practical and emotional needs. Leaders should seek to not only be caring people, but also to create a culture where seeking or providing help to alleviate hardship is the norm. However, if leaders are to motivate, coordinate, and direct their colleagues and teams to achieve urgent goals in our turbulent environment, they must also understand that having compassion isn’t about just having a sense of sympathy; it’s about having a sustained and practical determination to do what you can to help other people. Here are some strategies organizations can implement to truly do what they can to help others during this time:
1. Implement team-based pay and benefits
Economic recovery from the pandemic will take time, and businesses may need to adjust their staffing to balance financial constraints with skill retention and employee commitment. In order to better support all employees, instead of just a few, compensation policies may need to be refocused away from the individual and toward rewarding team performance and encouraging collaboration through a team culture. This may include requiring some employees to forego a pay rise or even accept a pay cut for the sake of the rest of the team’s longevity and success.
2. Revise leadership assessment and development processes
Amend leadership assessment and development criteria to place a higher weighting on empathy, relational skills, and agility. Use online self-awareness tools and simulations to help employees develop these skills and implement internal mentoring as a follow-up measure. This will help refocus leadership competencies toward Compassionate Leadership, and it will also help reduce feelings of isolation by bringing people together toward a common purpose.
3. Focus on the results, instead of the process
While it is important for employees to be present and productive, organizations must allow people to manage their time and their work in a way that balances with their new circumstances. Be clear about priorities and articulate the difference between good and great. Assess performance based on successfully achieving priorities, not the process used for doing so.
4. Use compassion to reduce fear and increase agility
When people are afraid, they are less likely to be agile, which puts flexibility, learning, innovation, and creativity at risk. Use compassion and empathy to reduce that fear, by acknowledging the validity of people’s fears and working to address them on a practical and an emotional level.
COVID-19 continues to change our business environment, many new uncertainties
will arise. However, despite this constant turbulence, the one thing that
remains steady is a leader’s need to show compassion.
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