What is compassionate (or compassion) leadership training?

In today’s demanding and fast-paced healthcare environments, leaders can struggle to establish meaningful connections with their teams, leading to poor productivity, low morale, and disengagement. Compassionate leadership offers a transformative approach to addressing these challenges.

We all want to feel valued, supported and enabled to do our best work. Sometimes we have cultures and micro-cultures in our organisations that don’t fully support that.

With expertise in delivering compassionate leadership training at the NHS and other organisations, we at RESET want to give every worker a chance to a healthy work environment, which is why we wrote this blog for you. 

In this blog, we delve into the definition and core attributes of compassionate leadership—the 7 C’s: Compassion, Confidence, Collaborative, Contemplative, Civil, Curiosity, and Courage. 

We explore the 4 essential behaviours of compassionate leadership: Attending, Understanding, Empathizing, and Helping. By practising these principles, leaders can unlock numerous benefits

What is Compassionate Leadership?

According to Michael West, author of the best-selling book Compassionate Leadership, this type of leadership involves a focus on relationships through careful listening to, understanding, empathising with and supporting other people. According to West, the idea is to enable those we lead to feel valued, respected and cared for, so they can reach their potential and do their best work. There is clear evidence that compassionate leadership results in more engaged and motivated staff with high levels of well-being, which in turn results in high-quality care. 

If practised sincerely and not just as a front, compassionate leadership has the potential to completely revolutionize a work environment.

The 7 C’s of Compassion Leadership

The core attributes of compassionate leaders include the following: 

Compassion: Use influence to prevent and alleviate the suffering of others.

Confidence: Belief in their visions and themselves.

Collaborative: Empower stakeholders to leverage their strengths and be leaders.

Contemplative: Take time to pause and deeply reflect, emerging wiser and more self-compassionate.

The 4 Behaviors of Compassion Leadership

According to academic research by Atkins and Parker, compassionate leadership involves four behaviours. 

1. Attending

  • This is all about taking time to listen and being present. 
  • Actively listen to employees’ challenges, obstacles, and frustrations, as well as their successes and achievements.
  • Attending is one of the most important leadership skills.

2. Understanding

  • Take time to see things from a different perspective rather than imposing your own understanding.
  • Be curious! 
  • Explore and understand complex situations.

3. Empathising

4. Helping 

  • Support individuals and teams.
  • Help employees to overcome obstacles that get in the way of work (eg, the conflict between individuals/departments, excessive workloads).
  • Provide resources that the staff require (eg, training, equipment).

compassionate leadership benefits

Are there benefits to Compassionate Leadership?

Through practising the 7C’s and 4 behaviours, compassionate leaders bring about numerous benefits:

Increased employee engagement in a supportive and empathetic work environment is fostered through compassionate leadership. Employees are likely to experience a sense of belonging and trust, boosting engagement. 

Improved employee well-being as compassionate leaders are able to show genuine concern for their team members, pay attention to their physical and emotional needs, reduce stress and promote a healthier work-life balance.

According to a 2022 paper by West, in NHS trusts where staff report the absence of such leadership, staff also report higher levels of work overload and less influence over decision-making. Further research from 2012 as well as government documents support that evidence and confirm that such organisations have poorer outcomes. 

With higher levels of loyalty and retention, employees are likely to stay loyal to a compassionate leader and the organisation as they feel valued and cared for. 

Higher-quality care for patients and higher levels of patient satisfaction as staff who are treated with compassion are better equipped to support others. In a 2022 study conducted by Westwhere staff generally report the absence of such leadership, there are lower levels of patient satisfaction, there is poorer-quality care and higher patient mortality.” 

The list of benefits of Compassionate Leadership can go on, but in summary, compassionate leadership creates a thriving work environment where employees feel valued, and supported, in turn, leading to improved performance and better overall organisational outcomes. 

The Best Compassionate Leadership Training

The King’s Fund offers a 3-week online course, ‘An Introduction to Leading with Kindness and Compassion in Health and Social Care’. This accessible and short course will help you to understand why kindness and compassion matters, recognise what kind and compassionate leadership looks like and will provide you with an opportunity to learn from experts in health and social care. 

Westminster Insight offers compassionate leadership online training within the NHS. In this course, you will gain practical insight into the relationship between culture and leadership, understand what compassion means, and learn how to build compassionate environments for staff. 

To further your knowledge, we suggest that you have a look at these fantastic resources and reports provided by the NHS.

Your next steps to improving your work environment

In today’s demanding healthcare environments, leaders often struggle to establish meaningful connections with their teams, leading to disengagement, low morale, and reduced productivity.

Compassionate leadership offers a transformative solution to these challenges. By prioritizing relationships and empathy, leaders can create supportive and empathetic work environments.

At The RESET Health Group, we believe in the power of compassionate leadership to foster engagement, well-being, and success in healthcare organizations.

In this article, you learned about the essence of compassionate leadership, including the 7 C’s and 4 essential behaviours. 

Now that you understand the importance of compassionate leadership, the next step is to implement these principles in your leadership approach. To further enhance your knowledge, explore the compassionate leadership training courses offered by reputable institutions like The King’s Fund and Westminster Insight. 

If you are interested in creating a thriving and compassionate work environment for your team and organization, read this blog about What is an Integrated Approach to Care and the 5 Best Methods to Increase Patient Engagement in Mental Health.

Msc Saiyuri Naidu is a Senior Assistant Psychologist at the RESET Health Group and an MSc Clinical Psychology Graduate with a special interest in trauma and how this can affect an individual’s mind and body.

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