Leaders across all fields of work are generally taught to lead with their heads and not with their hearts - wouldn't you agree?
We are expected to be strategic, rational, bottom-line business people who focus on results. Yet recent research like that conducted by Adam Waytz, Associate Professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, calls for a different style of leader - one who exhibits kindness, compassion and empathy.
Compassionate leaders are said to be more open to learning, and seek feedback to grow their leadership. They operate under the knowledge that they don't have all the answers - the people they have around them can enhance their knowledge and learning and hence enable them to lead even more effectively.
It is these high-quality connections, which renowned author and speaker Amy Cuddy reports in Harvard Business Review
, 'drives new levels of effort, creativity, confidence, engagement and performance - and that's what we all want, right?'
So here are three ways you can become a more curious and compassionate leader today:
- Accept you don't have all the answers
Dr Diane Hamilton talks about the connection between curiosity and human performance in her book Cracking the Curiosity Code. She lists the four factors that impact curiosity: Fear, Assumptions, Technology and Environment (FATE).
This fear plays out for leaders regularly. There is a need to have all the answers, to be seem as smart and capable, and to not be vulnerable - all of these impact our curiosity.
Being curious and interested in your people is critical to building strong connections. As a leader, how else do you understand what drives and motivates your people if you are not curious? If you don't invest the time in really getting to know them? Being curious about your people as individuals allows you to coach and motivate them using strategies and tools that are right for them rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Listen to and leverage other talent
Christina Boedker of the Australian School of Business researched the link between leadership and organisational performance, collecting data from more than 5600 people in 77 organisations. She concluded that out of all the various elements in a business, the ability of a leader to be compassionate, 'to understand people's motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be', had the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.
Hence, great leaders are much more interested in listening to others than listening to themselves. They are committed to learning, to leveraging the talent and different strengths in the team. You simply can't do this if you aren't curious about what your people bring.
- Be kind to be respected
In his book, It Worked for Me, Colin Powell, the former US Joint Military Chief of Staff and Secretary of State, reveals the principles that have shaped his life and career. Talking about the skill set needed to be a drill sergeant, he says that the best aim is to instill strength and confidence in their soldiers. While every soldier is taught to fear their drill sergeant, by building that strength through compassion, the sergeant is better able to deliver the tough decisions that they need to make.
Employees feel greater trust with leaders who are compassionate. Harvard Business School's Amy Cuddy and her research partner have shown that leaders who project warmth before establishing their competence are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill. This is due to the trust that is created with warmth, kindness and compassion.
It is clear that when we exercise leadership with this kind of curiosity and compassion, we allow our people to bring their best self to work - to feel truly valued for what they do and why they do it - only then does performance really thrive.