Cultivating Compassionate Leadership In A Crisis

Anil Prabha

May 7, 2020

Four qualities – awareness, vulnerability, empathy and compassion are critical for business leaders to care for people in crisis and set the foundation for business recovery. An article by McKinsey & Company sets the stage for this exploration. With everything that is going on in the world these days as a result of the fallout from the pandemic, the negative impact on mental health is something that is often brushed under the carpet and not really given much airtime. Interestingly, a survey conducted by McKinsey & Co proved that nearly half its respondents are citing the toll on their psyche as a real issue.

Stabilizing The Threats

Leadership in these troubling times means to set up a crisis-response infrastructure, such as a network of teams, elevating the right leaders into critical roles and developing scenarios to anticipate the future. Leaders need to tune inward to create time and space for self-connection and self-awareness too. This emotional self-contact and regulation lays a foundation for renewal and healing. Sharing a sense of gratitude is essential. Simple practices such as enough sleep, exercise and eating well is imperative to counter stress, fatigue. Gratitude has also shown to be a key factor in improving mental health. A renewal in terms of energy and hope can also encourage self-improvement.

Empathy And Compassion

Leadership means understanding that opening up yourself to others’ empathy and compassion, whilst also sharing your emotions in response to caring words and acts is also an exercise in vulnerability. All of this is key in laying a foundation for the cultivation of authenticity and trust. This will help the leader to connect with the broader organization. A sense of belonging and inclusion is important for all members of an organisation, and these measures are needed to re-imagine plans and develop a post-crisis future that can help businesses navigate these uncharted waters. The reason why all of these factors are important is that leaders are uniquely positioned to ignite hope and create the image of a future organization that people are excited to be a part of.

The Looming Mental Health Crisis

A global study by Qualtrics and SAP during March and April 2020 has concluded that 75 percent of people are more socially isolated, 67 percent are reporting higher stress levels, 57 percent are feeling greater anxiety and 53 percent are more emotionally exhausted. The uncertainty that all of us feel is something that affects us economically, personally and professionally.  Leadership is about taking the initiative to open doors of communication and be supportive of their concerns. It’s not easy to be consistent to keep a constant pulse of the organisation’s heartbeat.

The New Normal

But it’s essential for leaders and managers to keep these channels of communication open to take care of their respective teams. The ‘New Normal’ is all about being smart at work, and ensuring that physical and mental health is treated as a priority. More importantly, there is now a new paradigm in terms of how skills and talents can be better managed to handle the complexities that are now cropping up. A flexible workforce is key to the success of any organisation. As long as the new sense of leadership that is led with ‘head, heart and hands’ brings forward a purpose driven culture, the future is bright.

Sources: McKinsey & Company, Harvard Business Review and Boston Consulting Group

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About the author
Anil Prabha

Editor In Chief

Anil started his career in journalism all the way back in 2003. After traversing the sphere of editorial, corporate communications and advertising, he has now come full circle and is back in the world of journalism. He believes in the power of the written word, and its ability to enthrall, delight and inform the reader.

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