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Why compassionate leadership is the only solution to workplace stress

Chris Parnham, managing director of Absolute Corporate Events, takes a look at the high-pressure work environment of the events industry, and offers some solutions.


A recent Forbes survey found events to be the fifth most stressful job in the world. As eventprofs, we don’t risk life and limb on a daily basis, so why do we work in such a stressful environment? 

Truth is, every job is stressful. But it’s down to the pressure of the job itself, and down to leadership. That’s where Absolute Corporate Events come in. Do we witness real drama and crisis, or do we create it? 

Creating an unnecessarily stressful environment will lead to stressed employees, and stressed employees are not good for any business.  

Some £42billion is lost in productivity in the UK each year due to mental health issues. This is not just through absenteeism, it is also through presenteeism - where you can be at work, at your desk but be totally unproductive if your mind is not fit and healthy. This affects more people than we can possibly imagine. 

Mental health issues at work are fast becoming the biggest disabler in driving businesses forward, and without compassionate leadership, the situation will only worsen.

We hear a lot about mental health issues today, more so than ever before. Whether this is a generational thing, or if it has always been an issue that people were not comfortable talking about, we will never know - but it must be addressed. 

A compassionate leader prepares their team for success, rather than demanding it.

Compassionate leadership is a clear solution to this problem. Of course, there must always be pressure for improvement and efficiencies, more for less, the latest win or confirmation, but these goals must also be tempered and suited to the individuals involved. 

A compassionate leader prepares their team for success, rather than demanding it. A team is much more likely to be successful if it wants to succeed rather than being told this is the only option.

Compassion does not signal weakness, as has often been the perception. Those struggling with their mental health are not permanently broken. A compassionate leader will prepare a team for success but will ensure all the players have the tools, ability, good health and wellbeing and confidence to play their part. 

Some will be winning from the front line, while others are quietly securing the foundations of on-going success. Both are critical roles to long-term success.

Openness and safety are the keys to compassionate leadership. In today’s world, employees should feel that they can be open about their pressures and challenges, whether they are at work or at home - as one undoubtedly affects the other. Understanding another’s pain or pressure can lead to a breakthrough in confidence, trust and performance.

Compassionate leaders do not judge, they listen. They have time for their people and can adapt their approach to suit the person and the situation.

At Absolute Corporate Events, we are very supportive of the HBAA’s stance on mental health in the events sector. Spearheaded by ACE’s very own Angie Mason, the current HBAA Chairman, the organisation is leading the way for mental health awareness.

HBAA now offers Mental Health First Aid courses. A certified two-day course is open to all members, and a dedicated help page is being added to the HBAA website, with resources, toolkits and signposts to support members with their mental health issues.

HBAA chair Angie Mason recently commented: “We as an industry should be doing all we can to make sure we are all ok. But when we are not ok, we must ensure people can talk, share, be heard and receive support through compassionate leadership. 

“A universal change of approach is needed, and quickly. However small, changes in attitudes and procedures at a grass roots level is immediately effective, and can make a big difference.”