My Journey to Compassionate Leadership with Nichole Solomon

My Journey to Compassionate Leadership by Nichole Solomon

Published Wed June 24, 2020

The world has changed and none of us saw it coming. Transformations are happening to teams, organizations and business models. Not only are our professional environments changing, our personal lives are shifting. There is civil unrest and a sense of unknown that seems to be hovering with no pronounced end in sight. Over the last couple of months, I have asked myself these three questions over and over again.

  • “Which businesses are going to survive?”
  • “Which leaders are going to thrive?”
  • “What should leaders be doing to show those we serve that we care about their well-being?”

Most of us have taken a leadership class or two where we complete some type of assessment that assigns a leadership style to us. I’ve taken these assessments many times and I usually score in the “servant leader” bucket. After taking one of these tests over 15 years ago, I found a book called The Servant Leader: Transforming your Heart, Head, Hands and Habits by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. This simple yet profound reading sculpted my thoughts on the leader I wanted to be. It provided me with a simple road map and model to follow as I developed my leadership style and skills. I have ascribed to the servant leader modality (read a few more books) and over the years proudly wore my servant leader badge of honor anytime someone asked me what type of leader I am.

As I have grown as a leader, I realize there isn’t just one style of leadership style that I ascribe to. In fact, my “leadership type” doesn’t carry as much weight to me as it used to. The last three months have revealed our leadership styles better than any leadership assessment or personality test we could take in any class. What is most important to me now is how my behaviors, actions, and decisions as a leader translates to the success of the individual, team and organization as a collective.

At the start of the pandemic, I stumbled upon a leadership type that I didn’t know much about: Compassionate Leadership. After doing a little research, I realized that many aspects of the compassionate leader were the types of behaviors I had been personally working on and those that have helped me push through this current time of crisis. One definition of compassionate leadership that speaks to me states:

Compassionate leadership in practice means leaders listening with fascination to those they lead, arriving at a shared (rather than imposed) understanding of the challenges they face, empathizing with and caring for them, and then taking action to help or support them.”

I won’t sugarcoat or glamorize the tenets of compassionate leadership. It involves self- reflection, strong personal insight, showing vulnerability and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to building relationships no matter how uncomfortable. I work on this every day; some days are better than others.

While leading during the biggest crisis of our lifetime, I have to make a commitment each day to listen to my team members, focus on their well-being, advocate for their needs and provide them with a safe space to challenge ideas, make suggestions and sometimes fail. These actions and behaviors create the environment where the individual, team and organization is set up to not just survive but thrive.

No, none of us saw this coming. But isn’t the goal now to come out better than we went in?

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