Leading with kindness and compassion

Mark Golledge
4 min readFeb 19, 2022

Let me ask you a question. Who are the individuals in your life that have inspired you?

I want you to think about the people you’ve got, or have had a personal connection with (rather than perhaps those you’ve seen on TV or read about in the media). Those people that you know — and who know you.

I can think of a few.

I remember one time — early on in my working career. I was given the opportunity to go to a conference in London as part of the project I was involved in at the time. How many of you have been to those conferences where you look around and know absolutely no-one?

There will be some of you reading this who I’m sure love those situations — you’ll thrive on the opportunity to get to know new people, to jump into conversation with people you’ve not met before. On this occassion I was quite the opposite. I slipped in at the back, a little embarrased if I’m honest — feeling as though I was the only one not engaging in conversation.

It wasn’t too long before I realised that one of the Directors in the organisation I worked in was sitting at the front of the conference along with a number of other people speaking at the conference. I hadn’t realised she was attending. I knew of her, but didn’t really know her. We both turned and spotted each other — a brief acknowledgement and I expected that was that.

It seems like such a small thing, but that person decided to pick up her things and come and sit down next to me for the remainder of the conference. It’s probably 15 or 16 years on but I remember it vividly. What struck me at the time was that here was someone who was willing to go out of their way to help me feel safe and settled. She was consciously aware of others around her.

There’s other people too — other small things that have made an impact and that have inspired me. In many cases it has been people who have taken the time to ask questions, who have listened to the answer and bought encouragement and support.

I did a lot of travelling across England during my time with the Local Government Association. I can’t exactly remember where I was returning from but I remember one train journey back to London. The journey was with one individual who was so genuine, so authentic and so interested in finding out about me. He had just finished a long period of time as a Chief Executive and had moved into a national role. Much of that journey involved him creating a safe and relaxing space in which I could share my ideas, my thoughts and aspirations. There was no judgement — only encouragement and motivation.

Both of the examples I have given are of people who were in senior roles at the time. But I have other examples of colleagues, of friends and of family who have done things that have shaped the culture around them through kindness and compassion. What has marked out all of these people is the time they’ve given to others.

A couple of years ago I watched 2019 documentary ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbour?’. It’s a true story about a man called Fred Rogers who inspired generations in America through a children’s TV series. What I think captures audiences most about Fred is his authenticity — whether it’s in his conversations with the children he speaks to, or Fred’s desire to use his TV series to influence an American culture with one of kindness and community.

I was inspired to write the blog this evening following a post I read from the Kings Fund about compassionate leadership. It’s a brilliant read — and very thought provoking:

“Compassionate leadership involves a focus on relationships through careful listening to, understanding, empathising with and supporting other people, enabling those we lead to feel valued, respected and cared for, so they can reach their potential and do their best work”

It got me thinking about the difference that I can make for those around me. I must admit I don’t always find it easy and still have lots to learn. I know too often that I can be consumed with the ‘what needs doing’ and ‘how quickly it needs doing’. That isn’t to say those things aren’t important but there’s so much benefit for everyone in me playing my part to create a culture where others around me grow and thrive.

What the above examples demonstrate is that it can start with the small things. A 5 minute conversation or a short time out of our day to focus on others. But it has to be about us being us — not copying others.

I think we also can be more creative in how we support each other in this. It’s not just about going on a course or a training session to learn about kindness and compassion (as important as that is). But how do we encourage each other on this in the day to day with peers and others?

Most of all I know it has reminded me that we all have a role to play. I was inspired by the Chief Executive and Director who took time out of their busy day to genuinely engage — but lets remember we all have a role to play in this, however large or small.

--

--

Mark Golledge

Neighbourhoods Programme Lead working across health and social care in City and Hackney | Previously: NHS and Local Government |