If an important part of leadership is building meaningful relationships with team members, collaborators and colleagues, is it possible to be too caring? Is it really best for leaders to show the people we connect with each day that their concerns aren’t valid? We have all worked for insensitive bosses who aren’t able to see the world from our perspective. They seem to be so focused on the tasks at hand, that they don’t allow anybody’s challenges to get in the way. That type of disconnect can be very frustrating and make us feel that we must always put the obstacles we may be facing on the back burner.
Speaking with senior and mid-level leaders recently, a discussion about the right amount of empathy emerged.
Can leaders overdose on how much “love” they share?
Is there such a thing as being overly sensitive to a team member’s trials?
Can a leader be too soft?
Is there a right balance between being compassionate and being overly solicitous?
The five ways to be a compassionate leader without overdoing it:
1. IDENTIFY WHAT EMPATHY LOOKS LIKE
Although empathy can mean different things to each leader, it always involves seeing the world from the top of another person’s mountain. Think about:
2. COMMIT TO BEING AN ADVOCATE FOR OTHERS
Leaders show concern for team members or colleagues by recognizing their contributions and being generous in giving credit to those deserving. When leaders give shout-outs about their team’s accomplishments they are demonstrating how much they value each individual’s additions. Team members will then be more open to hearing honest feedback to learn and grow.
When leaders advocate for others, they aren’t being too soft. They are being human.
3. SOMETIMES ALL IT TAKES IS LISTENING
Being empathetic can often mean just actively listening to clearly hear what is being shared. If we can lead by being approachable and be willing to sit down to help someone sort out a problem, that may be exactly when the other person needs. There may not be any need to solve an issue but rather to empower someone to figure out their best course of action. When we lend our ear and stay focused we are communicating that we care.
4. LEAD WITH LOVE
When we allow ourselves to have an open heart we aren’t being too soft, we are merely being human. Everyone goes through difficult times in both their professional and personal lives. Think how you feel when you are feeling down or discouraged. Don’t you sometimes need a hand to help lift you up?
Compassionate leaders have open hearts and clear minds.
5. CREATE A BALANCED MODEL
After deciding how best to lead with empathy while not being overly soft, put that model to use and share it with team members. Bring humanity into the workplace and help cultivate a culture of compassion. Be the leader to model concern for one another. That will ultimately lead to a more trustworthy work environment.
Do you think a leader can be too soft? How have you balanced compassion with not being overly soft?