Being an empathetic leader is hard. It’s so much easier to be cynical, narcissistic, self-serving, perpetually blameless and aggressively competitive. We see a lot of that behavior in leadership these days. Of course, those kinds of toxic leaders, create toxic cultures.
More than ever, we need empathetic and compassionate leaders. Leaders who know how to relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. Leaders who promote trust and collaboration, and lead by example. Leaders who practice self-awareness and self-control.
- Mindfulness – This is the state of active, open attention on the present. Observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement. Mindfulness is a form of healing and resilience-building.
- Empathy – This builds self-worth and the ability to see ourselves and everyone around us as having value. Practicing empathy releases oxytocin, the “happy” hormone, and of course, a compassionate work culture encourages teams and organizational success.
- Acceptance – Own what is happening and understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. Come to terms with life rather than ignore it, repress it or deny it. Resist the urge to blame others or external forces. Learn from mistakes, find meaning in challenges rather than seeing yourself as a victim.
- Internal Control – Here you need to believe in control of your own life rather than outside forces. A realistic view of the world facilitates dealing with stress. Being solution-oriented results in a greater sense of control, which brings less stress.
- Optimism – Seeing the positives in situations supports the belief in inner strength, avoids victim mentality and nurtures empowerment.
- Support – Know the value of your social support and seek supportive friends and family. Surround yourself with people who give you the space to work through our emotions.
- Sense of Humor – One of my favorites! This is the ability to laugh at life’s difficulties. Learn to perceive issues as a challenge, rather than a threat. Humor reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins.
- Regular Self-care – Develop skills to take care of yourself. Reading, journal writing or meditating, physical exercise, listening to music, taking a bath or relaxing with friends – any activity that inspires you, nourishes your soul, helps recharge your batteries.
But for empathetic leaders, the possibility of compassion fatigue is very real. You are only human and you have limits. In order to retain your empathy – and avoid compassion fatigue at work – you need to practice self-care.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I want to give you the gift of emotional resiliency. See the guidelines below to keep yourself healthy at work.
The possibility of compassion fatigue in your life only serves as validation that you are a deeply caring person. That is a gift and a skill to nurture. My Valentine’s gift to you is the free download attached to this blog post. Use this emotional resiliency flyer to fight compassion fatigue on a daily basis.