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Team leadership – driving success through compassion

According to research, leaders who chose compassion over self-interest in their dealings with others are more likely to be successful, as well as help others succeed. Leaders who are humble, agreeable and compassionate are more likely to be liked and respected by their peers and team members, driving increased levels of motivation and productivity. On the other hand, self-focus and narcissism can harm your team’s culture and drive people away. Self-centered leaders also often put unreasonable pressure on their teams, which can initiate a stress response that negatively effects employees as well as employers, and can result in poor team morale, increased number of sick days and high employee turnover.

The overlooked leadership skill

Compassion is a proactive intent to contribute to the well-being and personal success of others - a valuable leadership skill often overlooked in leadership training. As stated in a recent Harvard Business Review article, in a survey of over 1000 leaders, 91% stated that compassion is very important for leadership, and 80% were keen to enhance their compassion but didn’t know how. A University of Michigan study, which focused on the effect of compassionate practices in the workplace, defines compassion as taking interest and maintaining responsibility for colleagues, providing support for one another, inspiring each other, avoiding blame and treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust and integrity. Research suggests that when businesses institute these practices, they achieve significantly higher levels of organisational effectiveness, including financial performance, productivity and customer satisfaction

Whilst to some people compassion in the workplace might seem a bit alien and almost too personal, research suggests that rather than making leaders look soft, acts of kindness and compassion increase their leadership status. In addition to being pleasant and easy to work with, compassion makes leaders trustworthy – a critical aspect of a successful relationship. Trust also increases the feeling of safety and drives the spirit of innovation, allowing for creativity in the workplace where people are not afraid to speak up, share ideas or admit to failure.

Inspired loyalty and engagement

When leaders treat others with fairness and are willing to give up their time for the good of their team and organisation, employees feel more loyal and committed to them. This in return creates a kinder culture, where seeing compassion in others inspires the rest of the team to do something kind for someone else. Compassionate behaviour can create a more collaborative work environment as seeing their leaders behaving fairly also results in the team displaying more collegial behaviour and being more productive.

Compassion creates positive results on both, organisational and individual levels. Employees who experience compassion in the workplace are more committed to the organisation as well as their work. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering learning solutions that help leaders and their teams to drive success, focused on practical tools to help solve real life challenges. In most cases we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off the shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. Our Team Leadership programme is designed to help leaders to develop, build and lead a productive team and create a positive working environment. To find out more, please contact Simon at

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