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To read the first piece in this two-part series on the fundamentals of powerful leadership, click here.

To be a vulnerable leader, you have to be comfortable asking for what you need and want, exposing your feelings, expressing what you are really thinking and being present.

To be truly vulnerable is to not be afraid to share your imperfections. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather an invitation for collaboration, communication and connection. It shows your team that you need their support and that you can’t do it alone.

If you lead by example, it will give your team comfort asking for your support when they need it, thus building a culture of trust and learning within your working environment.

At the end of the day, we are all human, and vulnerability enables us to connect more than ever before.

Leadership is about empathy

To be sympathetic towards an individual, you must understand what the person is feeling or at least imagine what it would be like.

On the other hand, to be empathetic as a leader, you would have a visceral effect about what the other is going through. When you are able to stand in their shoes, you can see, hear, feel and experience what they are struggling with.

You are actually experiencing their feelings.

Neuroscience research shows us that our brains mirror neurons when witnessing someone struggling or in physical pain. It triggers and activates our own emotions as if we were feeling what they are feeling.

It’s okay if you don’t pick up what others are putting down. Nevertheless, as a leader, you can imagine what that would feel like by putting yourself in their shoes.

Compassion naturally creates a positive atmosphere

The compassionate leader is one that takes empathy to a whole new level.

It is a combination of you as the leader experiencing the pain of another and ‘suffering with’ them. This means that you are accepting the suffering, the anguish or hardship.

You are not running away from the pain or pretending it doesn’t exist. Quite the contrary, you are allowing it to be present and giving it the space to be.

You are being present with the suffering.

This can be hard for some leaders, as they sometimes find it uncomfortable to sit in silence. The best thing you can give someone is your time. You don’t have to have the answers, nor do you have to fix anything up for them.

By giving them the space to be heard, it will at times lift their spirit a little, just enough for them to see it from a different perspective.

Compassion doesn’t weaken leadership; it makes it stronger

Leadership is about mindset.

If you want to know how the compassionate leader goes about their day, they take a moment to genuinely learn about their people. They show gratitude towards their teams for the work they do.

In other words, at the end of each day, they actually say, ‘Catherine, thank you for today. I am so ever grateful for the report that you created for the team today.

A thank you is nice. However, if you get to the specific task as to ‘why you are so grateful, you will see your team members walk away with a little skip in their walk.

A compassionate leader will adjust their language by using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

A small step like this can make an immense difference to how well you work as a team. Appreciate the views of others, invite other perspectives to enter a discussion.

This establishes a strong foundation of a more inclusive team culture.

What if your actions inspired others to be more?

To wrap up, I encourage you to try an insightful assessment exercise to embed the fundamentals of powerful leadership.

The Gallup Group created 12 questions as a way to point out why it is essential to have strong personal relationships if you want to be an influential and successful leader.

Let’s see if you can tick all 12 as a ‘yes’:

  1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
  3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do you have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

If you are happy to share your thoughts and personal scores, we would love to hear from you.

Imagine if your team members were able to tick all 12, what kind of culture will you be creating now for you as a leader and your organisation?