Crisis Management Musts: Compassionate Leadership

Sections of this topic

    Showing you care is critical to crisis communication success

    Our “Three C’s of Credibility,” the characteristics you must display if you wish to be heard by your target audience, are confidence, competence and compassion. Executives and CEOs we work with typically understand the first two, but many run into a roadblock when it comes to showing compassion.

    Compassion can be a powerful tool with widespread positive impact, so why do leaders so often have trouble conveying it? Harvard Business Review’s Roger Schwarz had this to say:

    People who experience compassion feel more committed to the organization and feel more positive emotions at work; when people receive bad news that is delivered with compassion, they remain more supportive of the organization; and acting with compassion can increase your own satisfaction and mitigate your own stress at work.

    And yet even if you want to be compassionate with others at work, you may find it difficult. You may find yourself either judging others or making assumptions about what will happen if you are compassionate.

    This can be especially challenging for leaders. As a leader, you get paid for your judgment. You are constantly evaluating situations and people. But that strength can become a liability when others need your compassion.

    Simply put, if you can’t learn to show compassion, it may be a good idea to get someone else to speak for your organization. Unless you acknowledge how your audience is feeling, be they employees, investors, or victims of crisis, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle with any type of crisis communication. Not only will you instantly plant a seed of negative sentiment, being perceived as cold and callous, but you’ll also cause many to completely tune out.

    By showing compassion, you create a bond and put audiences in a receptive state, key components to any successful communication. If you’re a leader in your organization and just can’t figure out why nobody’s listening, try out this Crisis Management Must.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]