Want to know the key to making a lasting impact as a leader?

Tammy Elliott

Thought Leadership from President Tammy Elliott of The Los Angeles Film School

When studying leaders of influence, there are several attributes that most agree that are associated with those who make a positive impact. Integrity. Self-awareness. Communication skills. Yet, there is an often-overlooked characteristic that some of the most successful leaders exhibit: compassion.

Leadership and compassion are wonderful partners. It is possible and reasonable to care for the organization and each other at the same time. I have witnessed leadership without compassion and, although the team was able to produce results, we did so under negative criticisms and emotional stress. This inevitably leaves a trail of collateral damage within the organization, teams, and individuals. But fear tactics and results aren’t mutually exclusive. Teams can produce results while being supportive and respectful of each other. When we work with humans and for humans at every turn, why wouldn’t we want to leverage our brains and our hearts?

Leading with Human-Focused Compassion

At times, finding harmony between running an organization and truly caring for the individuals that make up the organization, can be a challenge. We need to remind ourselves, as leaders, that there is an ever-present human component to accomplishing our mission. It is easy to get caught up in the daily tasks, the metrics, and the looming deadlines, but it is crucial that leaders remember our employees are the heartbeat of the organization. Find meaningful touchpoints that will not only elevate the mission of the organization, but uplift individuals along the way and embody human-focused compassion.

While many industries are embracing the concept of human-centric leadership, it’s not a quick and easy turn. It is a long road. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, fortitude, resilience, and clarity. And the long road forces us to recognize that life and work are not about striving for perfection, but rather striving for excellence and connection along the way.

I’m the first to admit that I’m a mere mortal who makes mistakes. Having compassion for others is simply recognizing we’re more similar than we are different. As a leader, acknowledging our shortcomings and remaining open to learning from each other creates a win-win. The connections that we make while successfully completing our responsibilities will inherently create confidence and trust within the individuals and, in turn, create a stronger and more resilient team.

Why is all of this important? Because, for those of us in education, our mission is to not only provide an excellent learning experience for our students, but to also care about our students and each other. We all experience adversity, challenges, hardship and, sometimes, just a really bad day. It is the grace toward each other and faith in one another that fuels us to find our best, against all odds.

Using Human-Focused Compassion to Empower Others

During my time in the workforce, I have witnessed many extremely talented individuals go unnoticed, unheard, and unseen; often women.

I know what it’s like to be a mom while maintaining a career. I know how it feels to watch someone take credit for my contribution. I know how afraid I felt when deciding whether or not to add to the conversation. I know how frustrating it is to be repeatedly interrupted. I understand the difficulty of balancing work and home life, and I bring all of this experience to work each day. It gives me perspective and compassion for those in similar seasons of life. Now, 30 years later, my leadership position affords me the opportunity to provide space for women to speak without interruption, to have an equal seat at the table, and to have their voices heard in a safe, respectful environment.

It is a wonderful and inspiring moment to realize that you can join the conversation without being domineering. You can be kind and compassionate while also being strong, clear and respectful. For women looking to embrace their compassion while developing into leaders, I encourage them to:

  • Listen: Listen with your ears and your heart. I never learn anything when I’m talking.  
  • Approach conflict with curiosity: Not many of us enjoy conflict, but we can use the opportunity to seek understanding. Instead of approaching conflict with set determination, try being curious. Pause to ask clarifying questions. Often, I will learn more than I knew at the start. And, with the new information, we may be able to find a compromise. Understanding each other is the path to reaching a shared resolution.
  • Trust yourself and know your limitations: Know when you have something valuable to contribute and say it! Also know when you aren’t the expert and join forces with someone who is. It’s okay not to know everything. And you will inspire others when they realize that we all are mere mortals trying to do a good thing.
  • Go easy on yourself: As women, we are so hard on ourselves. Give yourself a break when you make a mistake. Think about your truest friend and the lengths that you will go to lift them up when they are down. Now, think about yourself. You are worth the same measure of understanding, care and support that you provide others.

Leaving a Lasting Impact

When looking through the lens of how much impact one person can make, sometimes the circumstances feel so large that anything offered would land as insignificant. We spend a lot of time working, so that we can celebrate the finish. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m all about a champagne toast. In my opinion though, lasting impact does not suddenly appear at the “wrap party” nor at the yearly celebration for milestones met. The lasting impact is tenderly and carefully planted in each step, hundreds if not thousands of steps found “in between” the start and the finish.

Each day on this long road, we are given so many opportunities to genuinely connect with another person; in the elevator, the hallway, the board room, the classroom, the grocery store, the parking lot, or even the meeting that you would rather not attend.

To the best of my ability, I choose to take those steps with kindness, compassion and care; one-to-one and step-by-step.

This article was originally published on HR.com.