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Compassionate Leadership

Exceptional leaders understand that true greatness comes from sacrificing personal interests for the greater good of the team.”

Compassionate Leadership

In this month’s edition I focus on leadership skills which enhance the mental well-being of your teams. It seems appropriate given that it’s Mental Health Awareness week in the UK.

I’m sure lots of leaders out there think they are compassionate leaders and believe their people are their biggest asset. But how many leaders really understand what it takes to be a compassionate leader and get the best from their teams.

A compassionate leader focuses on relationships - paying particular attention to what people say, carefully listening, really understanding, empathising and being there to support their team. By doing this they build a culture where colleagues feel valued, respected and looked after. Consequently you create a team that are able to reach their full potential and do their best work.

In today’s edition I’m going to talk about:

(1) Mental Well-being: what factors influence your mental well-being and how to optimise it.

(2) Compassionate Leadership: Fundamentals and how to be a compassionate leader.

1. Mental Well-being

1.1. How does your mental state impact your energy, performance and well-being?

Firstly it’s important to recognise that there are a number of different influencers that can impact your energy levels and ability to function at your best.

  1. Spiritual: influencers are individual and impacted by your values, beliefs, purpose, goals and desires.

  2. Mental: influencers involve your clarity, focus, distractions, interest and level of challenge in what you are doing.

  3. Emotions: signal your belief system and how well your needs and desires are being met, and how excited and enthusiastic you are what you are doing.

  4. Physical: awareness of your body, what it's telling you, and how well you take care of your physical wellbeing are crucial for creating physical energy and power to perform.

  5. Social: having the right amount of interaction and feeling supported in your role is critical to your energy levels.

  6. Environmental: Your work environment, settings, equipment and clothing will impact how willing, motivated and enthusiastic you are to perform.

Energetic Influencers

If you’d like to learn more about this topic I share further insights here on Energy Leadership.


Now let's focus in on the mental aspects of your well-being.

1.2. Mental Health: Your mental health relates to your brain power and your brains ability to function. 

Your mental health affects your performance and is related to your thoughts and how they are processed in your brain.  The more “present in the moment” you are, the greater your:

  • Ability to Concentrate and Focus

  • Alertness, Awareness and Intuition

  • Clarity of thought and Decision Making

  • Creativity and Memory Recall

Leaders that are at their best mentally will show-up energised, they will be present, alert, engaged, focused and able to make those difficult decisions for the benefit of the whole organisation. If you are a leader this is where you want to spend most of your time.

Conversely when leaders show up stressed and under pressure they will not be at their best mentally. Typically they will be distracted and low on energy. They will find it more difficult to concentrate and become indecisive. Their perspective may become distorted and they may feel stuck.

If you are often stressed and struggle to show up at your best you may want to better understand why this is the case and find a way to show up at your best more often. The Energy Leadership Index Assessment is a scientifically validated tool that can be used to do exactly this.

Energy Leadership Index Assessment - Understand your Energetic Make-Up


1.3. What can you do to optimise your mental state?

Here are 7 areas relating to your mental state which should help you as a leader perform more effectively and look after your mental well-being.

(1) Alertness:

  • Leaders often need to make quick decisions and react appropriately. Your alertness allows you to recognise cues around you quickly, think on your feet and response effectively.  Optimal alertness differs by person and is affected by different variables like sleep, diet, stress and exercise.

  • TIP: Find your “power hour”. When are you at your most energetic and functioning optimally – the early morning or late evening – and why?

(2) Focus and Concentration:

  • Your Concentration is your ability to pay attention to something for a length of time. Focus relates to the “something” you are paying attention to and can be broad or narrow. The two are related.

  • TIP (Focus): Where do you focus and when do you perform at your full potential? Focus on what you want to happen, as opposed to what you don’t want to happen.

  • TIP (Concentration): What distracts your concentration throughout the day? Avoid multi-tasking and block time to specific tasks with breaks.

(3) Awareness:

  • Your awareness is influenced by your experiences and from this comes confidence. Leaders draw on their experience to anticipate and make effective decisions. Acute awareness comes from tuning into your surroundings and adapting how you engage and communicate.

  • TIP: How effective are you at making predictions based on your reading of a situation? Higher levels of focus, concentration and awareness typically result in better predictions. Try predicting what will happen.

(4) Accessing Creativity:

  • Your ability to find new ways of solving challenges and approaching situations reflects your creativity. Typically leaders are more creative when they show up energised rather than stressed.

  • TIP: There are a number of creativity techniques that involve “jumping out of your river”. This is where you purposefully take a different perspective or look through a different lens. Techniques include (1) Break the Rules (2) Reversal and (3) SCAMPER.

(5) Accessing Intuition:

  • This is your capacity to know what to do from a flash of insight you get. It often comes from your ability to connect with your surroundings, rather than your past experiences. Some leaders are more in touch with their intuition than others.

  • TIP: How intuitive are you? Try observing a group and whilst watching them take part in an activity be aware of your intuition. When you intuitively think something will happen take note of whether it did or didn’t. How accurate were you? Clearing your mind, being still and just listening are great ways to develop your intuition.

(6) Clarity:

  • Clarity increases confidence and reduces anxiety. When you are clear about goals and the steps to get you there it’s much easier to engage and commit fully.

  • TIP: Create clarity around the goals you want to pursue. What are you trying to achieve? How could you achieve it? What information do you need to choose the right path? What could get in the way? What support do you need?

(7) Mental Stimulation:

  • If something is too challenging or too boring your mental stimulation might be too high or too low. This can disconnect you from a task and definitely influences how well you perform and engage.

  • TIP: As a leader think about the tasks and activities you do. Try categorising them. Which are too challenging? Which are too easy or boring? Which are just about right? Are there any commonalities and what can you do to manage these more effectively? Delegate, Get support, Prioritise or Stop?

Optimising your mental state - 7 Tips


2. Compassionate Leadership

Having talked about mental well-being and optimising your mental capabilities I wanted to talk about what it takes to be a compassionate leader. As mentioned before compassionate leaders create a culture where colleagues feel valued, respected and able to reach their full potential and do their best work.

2.1. Three Fundamentals to be a compassionate leader

  1. Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others is central to compassionate leadership. Highly empathetic people care about others, respect others, and empower others to achieve together.

  2. Self-Awareness: Awareness of your own thoughts, emotions and actions is fundamental. Only then can you understand how to engage and communicate compassionately with others.

  3. Altruism: Unselfish concern for the welfare of others is a priority. Exceptional leaders understand that true greatness comes from sacrificing personal interests for the greater good of the team.

How might these three fundamental characteristics show up in the workplace and what can you do to become a better leader? 

2.2. What can you do to be a more compassionate leader?

Tips to become a more Compassionate Leader

  1. Check-In / Check-Out: This is something you can do with your team individually and at team meetings. Take a moment at the beginning of your sessions to really make sure your team members are doing OK personally as well as professionally.

  2. Practise Self-Compassion: To be a compassionate leader you’ve got to look after yourself. Demonstrate the behaviours you want your teams to show. Create routines that allow you to be at your best – find time to prepare, perform, transition and recover.

  3. Prioritise Well-being and development: Provide your team members with the support and encouragement they need to succeed. Create time with them to focus purely on their personal development, don’t squeeze this into normal work related update sessions.

  4. Apologise & Forgive mistakes: You want to your team to push the boundaries and grow. This means things won’t always go to plan. Embrace this approach. If you make a poor decision, acknowledge this and explain to your team what you’ll do differently next time.

  5. Listen without judgement: Remember it’s not about you, it’s about them, so actively listen. Avoid coming with your own set of pre-determined outcomes that you want to see. Give them the space to express what they think, how they feel and what they want to do.

  6. Coach to empower your team: Use a coaching style with your team members. Allow them to define what topic or goal they want to focus on and then support them to work through how best to move forward. Try the simple “I-GROW” technique if you are new to coaching.

  7. Help someone with a Task: If one of your team is struggling with a task think about how you can provide some guidance. You might want to ringfence some time to personally get involved or delegate to another team member that has relevant experience they can share.

  8. Trust your team: Once your team members have shown they are reliable, consistent and understand enough of the main business issues trust them to get on with their job. Let them know you are there if required, but don’t interfere and try to control everything.

  9. Praise their achievements: This is particularly important when your team are working on complex or challenging projects which will take time to deliver. Recognise and celebrate the steps on the way, no matter how small. This creates momentum and positivity.

  10. Communicate openly: The best leaders find a way to be transparent ensuring their team know exactly where they are and feel cared for. Often this means communicating key information at the right time, and not delaying, particularly when bad news is involved.

  11. Seek professional support: Sometimes you may need support from outside to help your team members overcome the struggles they are facing. That’s OK. Leaders can’t always provide all the right advice. Consider getting coaching, mentoring or counselling support.


🙏 Thank you for reading this edition of Breakthrough Leadership.

💯 I hope you were able to take some leadership concepts from this which will improve your confidence, performance and well-being.

💯 If you'd like to know more about some of the work I do and explore how I could support you please get in contact:

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