In the business world, there is growing talk of “benevolent leadership” as a popular philosophy within companies. Although the concept is not new, having appeared in the early 2000s, it is a leadership style that positively impacts work environments.
In the midst of a post-pandemic period of labour shortages and where remote work has become the preferred way of working, a growing number of employers are choosing to implement benevolent leadership, rather than the traditional, overly directive management model. This type of management is more people-focused and generally helps employers keep employees on their teams for longer. On top of that, it also motivates employees to do their best even when they are working from home.
Here’s what benevolent leadership looks like.
Benevolent leadership defined
If you’re not familiar with the term benevolent leadership, here is what will help you better understand what it is and how this management style differs from the usual way of doing things. First, do not assume that a benevolent leader is someone who is willing to give in to their team’s whims and wishes, or who lets people step on their toes instead of making thoughtful and fair decisions. On the contrary, this type of leader takes action for the good of all.
There are many studies on the subject and one of the largest was conducted in Quebec by a PhD student at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in 2010. According to Fahri Karakas, who is now a professor of leadership and business management at University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, benevolent leadership can be defined as “a virtuous circle that encourages, initiates, and enacts positive change within an organization” by emphasizing ethics, inspiration, positivity, and sustainability. First, decisions are ethical and actions are perceived as fair. This promotes team spirit, and work has meaning in that it is inspirational. Promoting positivity helps cultivate hope while inviting everyone to make a positive contribution to the group. Finally, the goal is to have a lasting positive impact on the community as a whole. In other words, a benevolent leader is always ethical when making decisions, finds inspiring assignments for everyone and the team as a whole, inspires others to surpass themselves, and ensures the well-being of all.
Benevolent leadership can be summed up as a management model that places people at the heart of their values and whose primary objective is to contribute to the common good while ensuring the company’s success. It is a philosophy that forms our core principles at Airudi.
Benevolent leadership in practice
First, to be a benevolent leader, people and wisdom must be at the centre of everything, even when the goal is to create benefits for the company and increase profitability. A benevolent leader must be genuine in order to foster a healthy work environment where their team feels a sense of trust. The leader must work for the team, motivate them, and share their mission of making profound change. Benevolent leadership is not necessarily about being a manager, but about being an equal to colleagues or employees. The priority is to remain humble and attentive. A benevolent leader actively listens and understands that every employee has a life outside of work. They are therefore accommodating and encourage employees to create balance between their professional, emotional, and personal lives. This fosters empathy and compassion toward employees and colleagues.
Contrary to what one might think of a benevolent leader, they do not lead their team; rather, they guide it. They acts as a mentor instead of a boss. A benevolent leader encourages and trusts the members of their team to develop to their full potential within the company. Finally, they are always grateful to their employees and sincerely thank them for the work they put in.
What results can you expect?
When benevolent leadership in implemented within a company, organizations see numerous positive changes. First, teams are generally much more engaged and responsibility is shared much more fairly. As a result, performance improves and reinforces everyone’s sense of accomplishment. Employees are happy in their work which results in the community as a whole seeing the organization more positively.
Dorota Grego-Planer, Professor of Business Management at the Faculty of Economics and Management at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland, conducted a recent study to determine whether benevolent leadership helps employees want to engage in their work more on a daily basis. The results of her study are conclusive: the more a manager masters benevolent leadership, the more employees are engaged in their responsibilities. They are therefore more efficient and motivated. She summarizes her study as follows: “The more a leader cares about making positive and constructive changes, the more they bring out the best in everyone in their work, for the greater benefit of all.”
Lastly, there is every reason to believe that establishing a management model based on benevolent leadership benefits companies to varying degrees. In the current context, with all the changes occurring, the labour shortage, and the volatility and uncertainty that organizations are facing, adopting a benevolent leadership style is the ultimate way to attract and, above all, retain employees. Benevolent leadership focuses on respect for each individual. What a better foundation for a company!