Leading With Compassion: 5 Steps to Communicate With Your Team in a Crisis

As industry highs and lows, systemic racial injustice, and the pandemic dominate our existence, it feels as though our world has upended overnight. Suddenly, every step we take, every message we communicate, and every decision we make is magnified.

While compassion has always been a core tenant of leadership, the global crisis has promoted it to the forefront of our hearts and minds. COVID-19 has effectively peeled the layers of leadership down to its essence, reminding leaders to lean on their emotional intelligence and grow the strengths of others before their own. And against this backdrop, leaders are facing new demands to revise their playbooks to put people before performance and humanity above the bottom line.

Yet how can you lead with compassion when the world is changing exponentially every day? The solution is simpler than you might think – put people at the heart of everything you do. Compassionate leaders are adept at charging ahead with their heart and their head. They fiercely rise to the challenge of uncertainty and support those who may be struggling. They listen critically and tune in to the personal fears, anxieties, emotions, frustrations, and motivations of each employee. And they take action to reassess their purpose, redirect their vision, choose their words intentionally, and create a safe haven where compassion, kindness, and integrity are central priorities.

Whether you’re announcing plans to reopen safely, strategies to enforce equality, a leadership transition, or a merger and acquisition, if you lead with compassion, humanity is sure to follow in your stead. Consider these five steps to success.

According to positive psychology, compassion is “empathy in action.” A perfect example of this comes from a New York City Fire Department chief at another heartbreaking time for our nation – the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.


Lisa Hildebrandt brings more than 14 years of experience in strategic communications and public relations to her current role as Account Director at A.wordsmith, a boutique communications firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon. She’s passionate about storytelling and skilled in building brands, engaging audiences and developing authentic messaging that helps clients communicate compassionately in times of change and uncertainty.


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