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Strengths-Based Leadership: Building Compassion in Followers

Strengths-Based Leadership: Building Compassion in Followers

by Brian J. Brim, Ed.D.

Read our extensive guide on Effective Leadership: How to Be a Better Leader.

What do followers mean when they talk about compassionate leadership? The research for Strengths Based Leadership found that the words employees used most frequently in relation to their leaders' compassion were "caring," "friendship," "happiness" and even "love." This may surprise some, but not those clients who have worked with Gallup to build stronger employee engagement. Gallup's research shows significant correlations to better business outcomes -- including productivity, profitability, customer scores, retention, attendance and even safety -- when employees feel like they have compassionate and caring leadership and have best friends in the work environment. So, compassion, simply put, converts to performance.

As leaders what does this mean? Why is compassion important in the workplace? Essentially, it means treating employees as the human beings they are. People want to matter, on the job and beyond the job. Treating someone like a cog in a machine is far from a compassionate act. Henry Ford is often tied to the quote, "Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?" What people often neglect to mention is that Ford's thinking shifted over time; Ford also said, "Coming together is the beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."

Successful leaders consider where their talents point them with compassion. These questions can help leaders to understand and, if need be, alter their approach.

  • How can I leverage my strengths to make sure that I help people know that they matter?
  • How can I leverage my strengths to ensure that I collaborate more than I command?
  • How can I use my strengths to ask more and tell less?
  • How can I leverage my strengths to stay curious in order to learn about employees beyond the work environment?

It seems that compassion is more than just helping people feel cared about as a person. Another way to help people feel like they matter is to help them understand why they matter and what they contribute. People want to matter, and when you make them matter they will make your organization matter. As leaders we need to pay attention to how we are applying our strengths in order to build compassion through caring about what people contribute.

We need to avoid getting caught in the trap of thinking that having all of the answers somehow makes us a stronger leader. Strength in leadership is not about needing to have all of the answers yourself, but in knowing how to involve your team in order to find the answers together. This shows that you care. You care about their thoughts and ideas. You care about involving them in making the work environment better. You care about the talents and insights they bring to the job.

Leverage your strengths to show employees that they are more than a cog in the machine. Help them see that they matter both at work and beyond. Help them see why they matter and what they contribute and send them home feeling better at night. That is compassionate leadership.

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Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Brian Brim's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Futuristic, Maximizer, Strategic, Relator and Achiever.

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