Leadership ‘compassion gap’ revealed amid crisis

Leaders believe they’re showing more compassion than before, but employees say they’re just not feeling it

Leadership ‘compassion gap’ revealed amid crisis

There is a clear gap between how leaders believe they’re managing the crisis, versus what employees experience, according to a new study.

The report found that leaders are much more likely to say that they’re leading with compassion and vulnerability but employees said they’re just not feeling it.

Nearly seven in 10 (67%) leaders believe they are managing the crisis in a compassionate manner. However, most employees (61%) said they’re not experiencing more compassion from their leaders.

When it comes to showing vulnerability by showing feelings, half (54%) of leaders said they’re being vulnerable. But a majority 72% of employees disagree with the sentiment.

READ MORE: Are today's leaders 'out of step' with reality?

Emotional intelligence generally, and compassion and vulnerability, are critical elements of compassionate leadership.

These survey results from the Center for Compassionate Leadership, a non-profit organisation, showed that in the midst of the crisis, leaders still have a long way to go to improve their performance along these critical dimensions.

On a positive note, employees were more likely to score their leaders highly in areas like information sharing, encouraging a sense of optimism, as well as open and frequent communication.

In these areas, there was a closer alignment between the behaviours observed by employees and how leaders believed they were responding.

‘Be human’
The survey made clear that employees most desired human-centred leadership — especially in the context of the crisis. Leaders would do best to focus on portraying compassionate behaviours, recognising a common humanity, be willing to be vulnerable, developing resilience, and empowering their teams.

When employees were asked, ‘How would you like to be treated by those who lead you?’, they replied things like:

  • “Be human. Show me you care about me and the other employees.”
  • Be treated like an individual human with unique needs.”
  • Care about your employees and families.”
  • With humility and humanity.”
  • Dont communicate using corporate speak.”
  • Express empathy, kindness, and concern for the people working in your company.”
  • Appreciate your employees and teams.”

READ MORE: Six ways to be a more thoughtful leader

In this climate, being ‘human’ will create a lasting impression on employees and have knock-on effects on the organisation in the long run. Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director at AccessEAP told HRD that empathetic leaders often display increased emotional intelligence and are better at creating a more inclusive workplace.

It is said that nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you careand this is certainly true in a workplace setting,” said Slepica.

Employees who feel cared for and are valued are more productive, innovative and loyal.”

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