In the leadership space, in which assertiveness and authority mostly steal the spotlight, a fresh approach has emerged- one that includes and uplifts empathy and collaboration. This approach is called gentle leadership. According to an article by Ben Steenstra, a leadership approach known as "gentle leadership" emphasizes empathy, humility, and compassion. It entails setting a loving and encouraging tone through leading with love, empathy, and respect for others. According to a study by Warwick University, kindness has been proven to impact people's happiness, and happier people are 12% more productive.
Author James Hunter first coined gentle leadership in his book The Servant Leader. In this book, he stresses being the best leader by putting the needs of your team before your own and showing them the respect they deserve. In this article, we look into the concept of gentle leadership style, its fundamentals, and its benefits to organizational leaders.
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Understanding Gentle Leadership
When it comes to gentle leadership, it is merely centred on compassion, humility, and empathy. The gentle leadership style emphasizes empathy, collaboration, and a focus on the well-being of team members. Instead of relying on traditional hierarchical power dynamics, gentle leadership promotes a more inclusive and supportive environment where leaders work alongside their team members to achieve common goals.
Leaders with gentle leadership skills can build strong relationships with team members and possibly inspire through encouragement. Unlike traditional authoritarian leadership styles, gentle leadership focuses on empowering individuals and fostering community within the organization. Gentle leadership is not about being weak or indecisive. It is about being strong and decisive in a way that is also compassionate and respectful.
At the centre of gentle leadership lies the significance of emotional intelligence. According to Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, emotional intelligence comprises various elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, motivation, and social skills. These components are important in the leadership style, enabling leaders to engage with their teams perfectly.
The Importance of Gentleness in Leadership
Gentleness in leadership style is essential in a leader for several reasons. For starters, gentle leadership generates a positive work environment where employees feel they belong and are supported. In practice, if leaders approach their duties with gentle leadership styles, they promote trust and psychological safety, thus allowing employees to feel free to air out and express their views and thoughts at ease. This openness to communication, in turn, enhances teamwork, creativity, and innovation.
Secondly, the gentle leadership style assists in aiding effective collaboration and helps develop and notice talent within the organization. Through recognizing the strengths and potential of their teams, Leaders who are kind give direction and encouragement for others to flourish personally and professionally.
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Key Principles of Gentle Leadership
Gentle leadership is guided by several key principles that shape the leader's approach. These principles include empathy, understanding, open communication, encouragement, empowerment, patience, and respect.
Empathy and understanding: Gentle leaders practice active listening and strive to understand the perspectives and challenges of their team members. They show empathy and respond with understanding, creating a safe space for open dialogue and fostering a sense of belonging.
Open Communication: Communication is the lifeblood of any team. But gentle leadership doesn't just settle for any communication. It prioritizes open, honest, and respectful dialogues. This means fostering an environment where everyone's voice matters.
Encouragement and Empowerment: Gentle leaders encourage and empower their team members by delegating responsibilities and giving them autonomy. They trust their team members to make decisions and offer support and guidance when needed. This approach fosters a sense of ownership and accountability, motivating individuals to reach their full potential.
Patience and Respect: Gentle leaders understand that individuals grow and learn at their own pace. They show patience and respect, allowing team members the space and time to develop and make mistakes. Gentle leaders foster a culture of respect and appreciation by creating an environment where everyone's contributions are valued and acknowledged.
Gentle Leadership in Practice: Inspiring Examples
The realm of gentle leadership is not confined to theory; it finds resonance in the actions of leaders who have left a lasting impact. Satya Nadella is a great example of gentle leadership being put into practice. As the CEO of Microsoft, he is well known for using an empathetic and inclusive leadership style. Microsoft went through a transformation that changed the company's culture and inclusivity efforts positively.
Debunking Misconceptions about Gentle Leadership
According to Forbes, there seem to be misconceptions about gentle leadership that must be aired. Generally, gentle leadership is mostly taken for passivity and weakness. However, this is not the case, as these leaders are capable of ensuring that individuals are held accountable for their actions and make tough conclusions about problems in the organization. The Forbes article further cites a need to balance authority with sympathy and attack challenges head-on. Lastly, emphasis on developing connections and encouraging progress is maintained while gentle leaders positively approach problems.
The Benefits of Gentle Leadership for Businesses
Gentle leadership offers numerous benefits for businesses:
- Increased Employee Morale and Satisfaction: Leading with gentleness creates a positive and supportive work environment, boosting employee morale and job satisfaction. Benefits such as results in a higher staff retention rate and low turnover.
- Improved Productivity and Performance: Gentle leaders empower their team members, foster creativity, and encourage collaboration. The result is that the organization benefits from increased productivity and creativity.
- Enhanced Teamwork and Collaboration: Gentle leadership promotes open communication, trust, and inclusivity. This, in return, nurtures a culture of coordination, working together, and collective decision-making.
- Stronger Employee Engagement: When employees feel valued, supported, and heard, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. Gentle leaders create an environment that motivates and inspires their team members, driving higher levels of engagement.
Empathy, kindness, and understanding are all elements of gentle leadership. When leaders use them, it enables them to nurture positive work environments, create strong relationships, and inspire team members. At the organizational level, gentle leadership aids the business's productivity, employee engagement, and team collaboration.