Over the course of my career, I’ve gotten the impression that people sometimes misinterpret my leadership style as “soft and fluffy,” or “touchy-feely.”
Though my leadership approach is indeed anchored in compassion and connection, that doesn’t mean the return on investment is any less than that of conventional, emotionally disconnected leadership styles.
In fact, the opposite is true.
A growing body of research has validated time and time again the concrete business results of caring leadership. Many assume that cutthroat workplaces yield high productivity, but countless studies have proven that positive, emotionally healthy cultures outperform their maladjusted competitors on every level. Here, I explore just four of the myriad ways that caring leadership transforms workforce dynamics and organizational performance.
- Caring leadership inspires exponentially greater employee engagement. In a Gallup survey, 54% of employees who strongly believe they can approach their manager with any type of question report being actively engaged at work. Among employees who strongly disagree, only 2% are engaged, and 65% are actively disengaged. It takes a caring leader to foster this sense of emotional safety, and these numbers highlight just how dissatisfied employees feel when they believe their manager is inaccessible.
- Caring leadership creates more loyal and grateful employees. Employees who receive empathy and selfless support from their colleagues are more likely to stay with the organization for the long haul. When we lead with bold actions that show we care, employees feel more compelled to contribute to our mission. Put simply, a leader cannot expect genuine loyalty from their team if they do not extend genuine care to them. Why would you be loyal to someone you didn’t trust had your best interest at heart?
- Caring leadership increases productivity and efficiency. A workplace helmed by a caring leader is ultimately a less stressful environment, which in turn leaves space for greater focus and mental clarity on important projects. The American Psychological Association estimates workplace stress leads to 550 million lost workdays each year, and anywhere between 60% and 80% of workplace accidents are stress-induced. Should you streamline your organization’s workflow by way of caring leadership, just imagine what could be accomplished during all that recovered time.
- Caring leadership enhances collaboration and team performance. If you model good communication skills and empathetic interactions, your employees are far more likely to extend that same grace to their peers. They tend to pay forward the goodness you embodied by recommitting their efforts to organizational objectives, and encouraging others to do the same.
Although these four advantages are just the tip of the iceberg, one message is abundantly clear: when people look up to and follow a caring leader, they feel safe enough to show up as themselves and leverage all their strengths in service of the collective vision, creating a mutually beneficial situation for everyone.
Unlocking employee potential is not a fixed formula with universally applicable action items, so it’s critical you take the time to consider what unique needs are not being met within your own circles. That might entail a little more elbow grease on your behalf to get everyone back on course.
Still, if you discount the business value of emotionally connecting with your employees, you might as well say goodbye to the benefits of a dedicated workforce in the same breath. Before your employees can believe in the company, they first have to believe in you as a person.