The compassionate leader

Showing your soft side in the workplace doesn’t make you weak, says Joanna Howes it makes you a great intuitive team leader

Take a moment to reflect on the last two years: What was it about your leadership that got your team through? What did it take from you to keep them together, to help them feel safe and feel they mattered and belonged even though it was through a computer screen? 

If your team did feel all of those things, then you would have accessed the most important and vital leadership skills that are required to be a future-fit leader: compassion; vulnerability; empathy; emotional agility; and listening.

For many years these softer human skills and behaviours were not thought to be connected to business results, so were rarely encouraged, or seen as a measure of good leadership to get the next promotion or acknowledgement. To be honest, for a lot of people they were seen as weaker leadership traits and amounted to a reputation of being soft with your team.

There is no better time than right now to change the story of what great leadership really means 

Unfortunately, this has had a huge impact and has contributed to the leadership famine we have found ourselves in today, where we have not enough great leaders to lead us into the future.

There is no better time than right now to change the story of what great leadership really means. 

In my many years of being a leader and now through coaching leaders today, there is a pressure and expectation of what you ‘should be’ as a leader to prove you are good enough and worthy of the role. This list of ‘should be’ looks a bit like this: have all the answers; not make a mistake; keep it all together; suppress emotions; be tough on people to get results, and be in control all the time

This list has caused many leaders to hide their true selves and created fear that stems from Imposter Syndrome, with feelings of being unworthy or unqualified for the role that many leaders experience today.  This list of ‘should be’ can only be achieved by asking robots to lead teams, as it goes against everything that makes us human. 

A leader is a human being, not a human doer.  Having the title of a leader doesn’t mean you shut down what makes you human.  

Another important thing to recognise is that the team members are very different to how the current leaders were in the workplace, when they first started out. The generational gap has never been bigger, and expectations have changed.  People coming into the workplace now value life outside of work, do not tolerate a toxic culture and will leave very quickly if they are treated badly.   

This means we need leaders right now to break the myth of soft skills meaning weakness and change the connotations to being a role model and a great intuitive leader.

It’s time to embrace these soft skills and know that this is the mastery of great leadership.  To know it’s okay to show vulnerability with your teams.

As Brene Brown says “you cannot have courage without vulnerability”.

And with the challenges we are seeing with the speed of change, roles evolving and technology increasing we need more courageous leaders than ever before, to lead us into the future.  

The cultures of successful companies today are ones who are ‘people first’ and do not just say it but live and breathe it.  Their decisions are based on what people need first, not the bottom line and it is proven that these cultures are the ones who are increasing their team happiness, performance, and profitability faster than ever before.

It’s time to reflect and think about the leader you want to be.  Are you ready to bring all of you to your leadership? To show compassion, to listen first, to validate and acknowledge your team, to start with empathy before accusation. 

For you to be a leader who can truly connect with your team, you must first truly know yourself.  Invest in your learnings, your self-leadership and knowing who you want to become as a leader and then you will start to see results that you can be proud of. 

Leaders of the future are the ones who have the inner strength to be their true selves and can connect and get the best from their teams with a blend of both soft and hard skills and can bring these skills to reach their team members on an individual level.  

The ultimate measure of success is – do your team feel like they matter, do they feel they can speak up and are they in an environment where making mistakes are understood and learnt from?  If you can answer yes to all these then you are on your way to being an intuitive future-fit leader

Joanna Howes is a performance and leadership coach find out more at  



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