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Leading with Compassion

When you hear the term compassionate leadership, what comes to mind? Kindness, understanding, sympathy, empathy?

Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”  Compassion can be felt in many ways; it can be self-directed, aimed at others, or directed at us.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern was often described as leading with compassion. She won global admiration after the Christchurch terror attacks for her compassion, swift action, and calmness.

The authenticity that Jacinda has shown in the majority of her public appearances, is unfortunately rare for a national leader.

So, Why Is It Important? 

Leading with compassion isn’t required, but it sure goes a long way. And in the workplace, if you really want to get the best out of your employees, being kind and sympathetic builds trust, rapport, and inspires your team to do better!

Studies have shown that empathetic managers improve employee morale, productivity and decrease job-related stress. A survey conducted by EY revealed that employees believed a compassionate leader inspired positive change, increased trust and led to a higher staff retention rate. According to this report, 82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organisation.

Moral of the story? Make compassion a priority!

Start with Yourself!

So often we forget to focus on ourselves first and tend to focus on others before we address our own issues. Start with practicing self-compassion. Notice how you speak to yourself. Do you find your voice to be critical or judgemental? Do you beat yourself up for every mistake you make? DON’T DO THAT! Start by using kinder words that offer love and support and remember that no one is perfect. Visit Kristin Neff’s website for more self-compassion tips.

Practice Kindness

Kindness goes a long way. Something small like smiling at someone or giving a compliment can have a big impact. Start by greeting your co-workers in the morning. Take notice of their well-being and check in with them. Does someone seem a bit stressed or upset? See if you can assist them or be their sounding board. Is a birthday coming up? Organise a card and have the office sign it. Did you have the best store-bought chocolate chip cookies over the weekend? Buy another pack and share it with your co-workers.

Praise Others

Take notice of achievements. Did someone on your team smash their KPIs or give an amazing presentation to a potential client? Maybe it was something simple like someone lending a helping hand to another co-worker? Whatever the achievement was, it’s important to acknowledge what’s taken place and give praise. Does your company have monthly staff meetings? Start the meeting by acknowledging the accomplishments and strengths in others.


Take the time to listen to others and encourage open communication with team members. Instead of hiding behind a desk in your own office, sit side by side with your team and provide guidance and support. Encourage staff to voice their opinions or concerns.

Regularly check in with staff and ask for feedback and make a conscious effort to take it on board. Offer a safe place for staff to open up about issues such as mental health, domestic violence, or workplace bullying. If you are not able to offer support, refer staff to organisations that can assist in whatever the issue is.


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