Compassionate and Inclusive Leadership

We all want to feel valued, supported and enabled to do our best work. Sometimes we have cultures and micro cultures in our organisations that don’t fully support that.

Compassionate and inclusive leadership is embedded in high quality, high performing systems and drives improvement in their overall performance, meaning better outcomes for patients, better population health and better value for money.

Leaders who model compassion, inclusion and a focus on improvement are key to creating cultures where diversity is valued, people feel they belong and are empowered to deliver great care and patient experience, whatever kind of health and social care organisation they work in. Compassionate and inclusive leadership creates an environment where there is no bullying, and where learning and quality improvement become the norm.

Continuous improvement depends on staff feeling safe and empowered to improve services using tried and tested improvement approaches in partnership with patients, families and communities. Where leaders act with compassion, staff feel valued, engaged and enabled to show compassion themselves. They feel obliged to speak up when something is wrong and empowered to continuously improve.

Compassionate leaders take a genuine interest in their staff, value diversity, take time to listen and be with their staff, respond empathetically and are prepared to do something to alleviate distress. They are also the leaders who will be able to share their vision and inspire others to work together to ensure that care is safe, effective, humane, and good value for money.

Resources to support compassionate and inclusive leadership

Resources: NHS England » The guide for the NHS on freedom to speak up

This guidance is designed to help senior leaders, in NHS organisations who provide services to the NHS, develop a culture where:

  • leaders and managers encourage workers to speak up
  • where matters raised by workers drive learning and improvement

Videos and Podcasts: Each video raises valuable insights for organisations and leaders to consider when reviewing freedom to speak up arrangements and the podcasts cover developing inclusive speak up cultures – NHS England » Resources to help you develop your freedom to speak up arrangements

Video: Professor Michael West shares his thoughts on compassionate and inclusive leadership: ‘If we want to create cultures of high-quality compassionate care, then we need to have leaders who embody the value of compassion as part of their continually improving, high quality leadership.’

Video: Professor Michael West explores the links between compassionate leadership and innovation and discusses how we can ensure collaboration across boundaries in health and care.

Podcast: Whistleblowing in the NHS, British Medical Journal, Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, CEO, writer, university lecturer and keynote speaker. She has thought a lot about whistleblowing, and why companies don’t respond well to it. She wrote the book ‘Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril’. In this podcast she talks about how poor culture and groupthink lead to a scenario where whistleblowers are ignored, and why the NHS needs to change the way it treats people who try and call out poor care.

Video: Compassionate and inclusive leadership: supportive leadership cultures and the NHS long-term plan’ with Sam Allen, Prerana Issar and Don Berwick

Model Hospital: Culture & Engagement – Please sign in to look at your region, ICS or individual trust and identify peers who you can learn from.

Resources and mini guides: NHS Improvement’s Culture and Leadership Programme“We can help you to develop and implement collective leadership strategies, resulting in a culture that delivers high quality, continuously improving, compassionate care.”

Resources: Staff engagement is key to helping the NHS meet the range of challenges that it faces. NHS Employers have a range of resources to support staff engagement including Twelve Top Tips on Staff Engagement. Employee engagement and leadership style go hand in hand – what employees describe as ‘good leaders’ produce committed, engaged and productive employees.

Document: Compassionate Leadership: what is it and why do organisations need more of it? – Roffey Park Institute Research Paper 2016

Documents: The King’s Fund resources on compassionate leadership

Article: From super-hero to super-connector, changing the ­leadership culture in the NHS – RCP Future Healthcare Journal, by Suzie Bailey and Anna Burhouse, June 2019

Blog: Five Myths of compassionate leadership – The King’s Fund May 2019

Blog: To keep people safe we need to have a good argument by David Naylor – The King’s Fund. How we talk to each other is important. If people do not feel free to speak to what they think and what they notice at the time, we risk making poor decisions based on partial data. As Robert Francis noted in his report, the word ‘hindsight’ occurred 123 times in the transcript of the oral hearings, the ‘benefit of hindsight’, 378 times. People noticed much more than they felt able to talk about.

Blog: Amanda Super, occupational psychologist, has been working in leadership and NHS staff development for many years, specialising in coaching people to develop their self-compassion. Read her guest blog on the NHS North West Leadership Academy on the components of self-compassion.

Book: Self Compassion by Kristen Neff – this seminal book paved the way for bringing self-compassion to the mainstream and is an easy and insightful read which bring self-compassion to life.

Book: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman – influential text which demonstrates how optimism enhances our quality of life and how anyone can learn and practice it.