Why and how can you become a benevolent leader?

L'équipe Talkspirit
L'équipe Talkspirit
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Temps de lecture : 6 minutes

Today’s professional world is in constant evolution! In this context, the notion of “benevolent leadership“—as opposed to more traditional “authoritarian leadership“—is proving increasingly important! The figures speak for themselves: one survey conducted by the American psychological association reveals that 77% of all American employees have felt stressed at work in the past month. The evidence is clear: well-being at work is a major challenge.

To truly grasp what benevolent leadership is and how organizations can implement it, we interviewed speaker, writer, columnist, and podcaster Gaël Chatelain-Berry. After more than 20 years of experience as an executive in major corporations, he created the concept of “benevolent leadership,” a term he defines as a powerful productivity engine.

In our interview, we asked Gaël what skills a benevolent leader should have and how this management style can be introduced in the workplace.

What’s benevolent leadership?

Benevolent leadership is an approach that runs counter to authoritarian management models. These are models where decision-making is centralized with a tight control of authority that hinders individual participation. According to Gaël Chatelain-Berry, we can define it in one sentence: “Benevolent leadership means never treating your colleagues the way you would wish to be treated. Do we want to be yelled at when we make a mistake? Do we want our boss to be late for a meeting we’re organizing? Of course not!”

In other words, benevolent leadership is based on the idea that working relationships can be genuine and centered on consideration for each employee’s individual needs.

Although the concept of benevolent leadership is gaining momentum, many companies still follow traditional management models based on authority and hierarchy. For Gaël Chatelain-Berry, “This has been a huge problem for decades. Unfortunately, there are still some companies that haven’t taken this step, and they’re finding themselves in a terrible mess when it comes to recruitment.

In short, reinventing management offers companies an enticing opportunity to improve. Let’s now explore why.

Why benevolent leadership is essential 

For Gaël Chatelain-Berry, benevolent leadership extends far beyond a mere trend or choice of style. It’s a response to the modern challenges companies face in multiple areas:

Putting benevolent leadership into practice

To illustrate this point, Gaël gives an example:
Let’s take an individual who’s seeking a job and offer that person a choice between two companies:

  • On one hand, a company suffering from toxic management:
  • meetings held late on Fridays until 7 pm, when the team’s energy and concentration are already beginning to falter
  • a lack of visible recognition (employees’ efforts are rarely acknowledged or rewarded)
  • a total lack of feedback (lack of transparency concerning performance and areas for improvement, and for partners and leaders alike)
  • On the other hand, a company that engages its employees through:
  • recognition”, for example by publishing regular posts on the enterprise social network to celebrate employees’ achievements, contributions, and successes
  • “more flexible work methods”, including hybrid work This enables employees to manage their working hours according to their personal needs, alternating between face-to-face and remote work, for example.
  • “access to professional development and training to help employees progress in their careers.

Gaël concludes: “This employee will obviously opt for the second company! We are no longer experiencing mass unemployment, and employees now have a choice. When you consider how difficult recruitment is at a time like this, it’s crucial to brush up on your management style.

In short, adopting benevolent leadership offers advantages to employees and employers alike!

The skills of a benevolent leader

For Gaël Chatelain-Berry, “We don’t often make the connection between our personal and professional lives, even though they’re exactly the same thing.”

“We’re human beings, so we prefer to be surrounded by caring people, and it’s the same at work. The only difference in professional life is that we don’t choose our colleagues. In this context, the role of an executive is to help his team evolve towards benevolence.”

To create this caring and productive work environment, each leader must develop several skills:

Listening and recognition

According to Gaël, listening and recognition mean that you’re “available, attentively receptive to your colleagues, not pretending to always be right, and being ready to question your own ideas. Ultimately, it means being there for your team.”

“A leader’s role is ultimately not to always be front and center, but rather to put the team first when they succeed—and provide a cushion when they fall.

Optimism

Says Gaël: “No matter what the situation, leaders must constantly motivate and elevate their teams. It’s crucial not to pass on your own stress and discourage others.

Humility

A benevolent leader must thoroughly cultivate humility, recognizing that without his team, he no longer succeeds. He must understand that the team is at the heart of the process—not the leader alone. This is a fundamental principle of benevolent leadership—where collaboration and recognition of individual contributions are essential to achieving collective goals.

Talkspirit is the ideal platform for effective, friendly collaboration within your company. This comprehensive platform offers a range of features that include:

  • a chat that promotes open and transparent communication
  • groups and project functionality for organized and efficient collaboration
  • publications and comments on a news feed to receive feedback in real time, enabling employees to support each other and constantly improve
  • …and much more—all in the name of team exchange. Request your demo to discover our platform today!

How to implement benevolent leadership: best practices

The implementation of benevolent leadership is based on concrete practices. “You’re not named an executive just to have the title,” clarifies Gaël. “You’re a leader to convey a state of mind, an atmosphere, and a set of values.

To adopt this approach, our expert lists several steps: 

Liberate your speech

First of all, Gaël recommends “opening up the floor right from the first contact. This helps to make his team understand that they have the right to say anything and everything, and that includes unpleasant things. It’s all a question of form.

The aim here is to “offer your team a space for uninhibited expression—including on questions of work and feelings at work. For example, encouraging discussions about areas of interest and motivation without being seen as dramatic. That’s how everyone feels good about themselves and doesn’t regularly tread off to work with a lump in their stomach.

Motivate your teams

Gaël Chatelain-Berry points out that “one of the main reasons for employee demotivation is that some supervisors don’t start the day with a simple “good morning.” He believes that “anyone can learn to say, ‘good morning.’ What we’re talking about here is basic behavioral instincts that are within everyone’s reach. Obviously, some people are naturally more smiley, optimistic, or open-minded, and this can influence how they greet their colleagues.

Every individual is unique, and it’s essential to consider every employee’s point of view. Simply starting with “hello” can be a powerful source of motivation!

Also read: Quiet quitting: the tell-tale signs

Train, train, train

Ongoing leadership training has its virtues! For Gaël Chatelain-Berry, being a leader is like learning to play the piano. “If you’ve never played the piano, imagine being in a room with 10 other people where you’re being taught ‘Für Elise.’ Maybe you’ll play it with two fingers, and then maybe someone next to you will play it like a genius. Leadership is the same way. You can learn all the basics!

There’s no big secret to being a benevolent leader: it’s just a matter of continuous training to hone your skills and succeed in your role.

Create a culture of feedback

To instill a culture of feedback, Gaël Chatelain-Berry shares an exercise that works every time: “Supervisors ask their team to meet in their absence and fill in a two-column questionnaire. In the first column, they note what their supervisor does well, while in the second column, they identify what their supervisor could improve. The team has to unanimously validate each point.

This exercise reveals that team members often have different perceptions of their supervisor simply due to individual preferences. Once the team reaches a consensus, it can provide feedback to the supervisor. This encourages open dialogue, demonstrating the leader’s humility, ability to listen, and commitment to serving the team. The advantage of this exercise is that it:

  • ensures freedom of speech for all
  • demonstrates the supervisor’s humility
  • validates the leader’s attentiveness and service toward the entire team

Evaluate your teams

In addition to sharing regular feedback, it’s equally important to assess supervisor performance in a more formal setting. The simplest approach (already adopted by several companies) is to “organize a teamwide evaluation of the department head using simple questions. This evaluation can be carried out quarterly, monthly, etc., in the form of a survey.

This method provides a “clear, authentic indicator” that will help leaders improve. The vast majority of assessments of this type are generally carried out once a year by department heads themselves—the equivalent to self-evaluation. This approach often limits negative feedback. It’s therefore preferable to opt for simple, objective feedback tools.

Using tools such as Talkspirit, your team can conduct surveys online to collect responses from members anonymously and securely. This method creates an environment where everyone feels psychologically safe, and can share their opinions freely. Ultimately, this leads to ongoing leadership improvement.

Sample survey on Talkspirit Why and how can you become a benevolent leader?
Sample survey on Talkspirit

A final word

Benevolent leadership is an essential approach to promoting employee well-being, stimulating productivity, and boosting overall business performance!

As our expert Gaël Chatelain-Berry points out, benevolent leadership is based on listening, empathy, and open communication. By adopting these principles, you can improve relations with your teams and help them to flourish professionally. Never underestimate the power of benevolence in leadership! 

Train on these lessons, put them into practice, and become a benevolent leader to contribute to a more positive world of work!

Want to find out more about new management models? Download the Holaspirit white paper “Next Generation Leadership!

Access the white paper

In the “Next Generation Leadership” white paper, you will discover: the skills that every great leader should possess, the different possible management styles, as well as methods and best practices for implementing them within your organization.

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