Creating a compassionate and inclusive culture

Creating a compassionate and inclusive culture

Compassionate and inclusive leadership builds connections across boundaries, ensuring that the voices of all are heard in the process of delivering and improving care. In order to nurture a culture of compassion, organisations and systems require their leaders – as the carriers of culture – to embody compassion and inclusion in all aspects of their leadership.

The NHS Constitution is a foundation document for creating the diverse, inclusive and compassionate organisations and systems we all hope to work in. It details our rights and responsibilities as staff and patients and underpins this theme of compassion in particular.

Creating a compassionate and inclusive culture is a key element of the NHS People Promise – which articulates the values of a positive, compassionate and inclusive culture.

Leading compassionately for yourself and others has two strands:

  • Recognising your own behaviours and motivations, maintaining your well-being, and pacing yourself while delivering in a sustainable way – with support in difficult times through mentoring and psychological support in the Leadership Academy Executive Suite
  • Modelling compassionate and inclusive leadership and holding others to account for doing the same across the organisation with resources available to the right


  • Connect more of the organisation to itself: listen and find ways to understand the lived experience of front line staff as often as possible to nurture a compassionate and inclusive culture. A CEO found out some BAME staff were working as bank staff because they could identify which wards felt safer to work on from their perspective – powerful insights from a single question.

  • It’s simple but we know leaders set the tone for compassionate and inclusive leadership and the health and wellbeing of staff; so it matters how we speak to people, if we come in while sick, regularly leave late – it sets an expectation for others to do the same – it starts with you.

  • Challenge your thinking. Find a coach or mentor, maximise the brilliant opportunity to access support that gives you the wisdom and expertise to drop a different lens in front of your challenges.
  • Familiarise yourself with the principles of Appreciative Inquiry. The approach can help us to see old issues in new ways and how to challenge the status quo.

  • Give positive feedback as often as you can, if you forget and remember later, still thank people – they will remember.

  • Name it – modelling behaviours and being open about mistakes early means things can be improved. Likewise, when you see something wrong (like incivility), name it – we all have a part to play in changing the culture of how we interact with each other.

  • Create systems and processes that focus on restoring relationships and not ones that look to apportion blame. Our pressured work environments sometimes give rise to inappropriate behaviours through stress and fear which can end up in formal processes for resolution, including grievances. Focus on developing skills, so these behaviours are recognised quickly and ensure your staff feel supported by their organisation to speak up.

  • You can run a sprint, or you can run a marathon, but you cannot sprint a marathon. Pace yourself, reflect, get a coach, use support networks, look after yourself and those you love, for your own wellbeing.