Caring for others is fundamental to great leadership. It broadens your vision, deepens your understanding and inspires those you lead.
Caring attention and compassionate interaction help build psychological safety, the state in which those you lead feel comfortable contributing their ideas and considering those of others.
Your capacity for caring can be developed. You can identify your inner resources, trust your own strength of character, learn to notice when others need help, learn to listen attentively, and to cultivate effective responses.
Of course, you can’t please everyone. But if you practice being calm, curious, self-aware and appreciative, you can build and maintain positive, respectful, healthy relationships even in difficult circumstances.
The following process, while simple, will help you explore your strengths and pinpoint opportunities to become a more caring leader.
Steps 1 through 4 can be practiced as needed. But if you go through them regularly whenever you’re in the presence of those you lead (e.g., in meetings), you’ll steadily build your leadership skills along with your own well-being.
1. Be calm.
• Breathe slowly in and out, feeling your body expand and contract.
• Observe your breath as if watching another person at rest.
• Image your breath rising up through your body as you inhale and falling as you exhale.
• Practice this relaxing breath to calm your body. By staying relaxed, you help others feel relaxed.
2. Be curious.
• Expand your awareness to include others in a non-judgmental way. Suspending judgment boosts the accuracy of your observations. Are you noticing behavior that is agitated, frightened, subdued, or worried?
• Relax the muscles around your eyes to expand your peripheral vision. Broadening your vision increases relaxation, which helps you perceive more.
• Maintain this broad awareness as you observe the full spectrum of the situation.
• Continue rhythmic breathing to help you stay fully engaged.
3. Be self-aware.
Notice your interior state. Are you:
• Responding confidently and calmly, or reacting out of anger or fear?
• Stabilizing or de-stabilizing a situation?
• Encouraging team members to feel safe to contribute and support each other?
• Demonstrating your inner compassion and capacity for leadership?
• Notice and inwardly appreciate others’ contributions, even small ones (like paying attention).
• Practice spotting opportunities to feel grateful not only for the team you lead, but also your family members, friends, and significant other.
• Notice and acknowledge how negative things (e.g., mistakes, rudeness) compete for your attention. Then gently move them aside and focus on what you’re grateful for. Practiced gratitude develops an appreciative, caring perspective.