We don’t need a study to tell us how toxic leaders can wreck an organization. Some of us know all too well how much damage toxic leaders can do. They can take a perfectly good organization and wreck it from the inside out.
But this not an article about toxic leaders. Rather, this is an article about compassionate leaders and the effect they have on an organization.
When we look for desirable qualities in leaders, we do not look for kindness, compassion, empathy etc. Instead, we look for qualities such as go-getter, decisive, dynamic, change-oriented etc, all qualities which indicate that the person is poised to take action at all times and does not consider niceties in particular.
For the longest time, to be ‘good’ or ‘nice’ in the workplace also meant that the employee in question would perpetually be playing second fiddle to others, regardless of his talent. He may even never be considered for a leadership position
But for every study that shows how much agreeability holds us back there are also studies which show us that kindness is a valuable commodity in the workplace.
What are some of most tangible and visible effects of kindness and compassion in leaders? Can they really affect organizations in positive ways?
Increased amount of trust
When leaders show kindness to employees, they become more trustworthy in the eyes of employees. This is even more true when leaders follow up kind words with actions. A toxic leader is going to put employees constantly on their guard. A kind leader makes employees feel comfortable, making it easy for them to trust not only others, but also their own capabilities.
Compassionate leaders are good at getting employees to feel like they are a part of the organization. They don’t just aim for employee engagement on the surface. Instead, they do their best to give employees a stake in the organization’s success. This might mean showing employees the impact of their efforts or might include giving employees a project that has a visible effect on the organization’s success.
Allowing for freedom of thought and expression
Compassionate leaders create a culture of openness in the organization. This might include a breakdown of rigid hierarchical structures, allowing different opinions to be heard and most importantly, welcomed as well. Additionally, compassionate leaders also create diverse organizations that feature employees’ from all background. They make a conscious effort to be inclusive and broad-minded.
Transparency becomes a core value
Good leaders are honest and transparent about their actions and words. This also extends to taking responsibility, admitting wrongdoing and most importantly, apologizing for a mistake. As a result, this habit of transparency also begins to affect employees. Honest leaders spur employees to be honest themselves. And oftentimes, this honesty is not a byproduct of a leader exhorting employees to be honest. Rather, it comes about from a desire to emulate the good qualities that they see in their own leader.
Flexibility in organizational processes
A good leader focuses less on rigid hierarchical processes and focuses more on what makes employees comfortable. This means changing up processes to suit the needs of employees, getting rid of certain archaic rules, enabling managers to exercise greater control over how managers manage their teams etc.
Greater flexibility doesn’t just set employees at ease. It also says a lot about an organization’s culture, the most important fact being this: that they are open to change.
When an organization is flexible, employees don’t feel the need to second guess their every move. And of course, this in turn leads to greater employee engagement.