Compassionate. Is it a dirty word in business and leadership? Or is it the difference between highly effective and mediocre leaders?
When we think of highly effective leaders, it’s often in terms of their decisiveness, strategy and clever thinking. It’s not often that interpersonal traits like compassion spring to mind. Yet no leader can lead without followers, and those followers are human, with all their human needs and frailties.

Can you be a great leader without the softer skills? No, I don’t think you can.

It’s easy to see that compassion belongs in the leadership skill list, but how exactly?

Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa says “Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.”

Your team wants to be understood. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements without knowing the full story. For example, when an otherwise well regarded member of staff begins to under-perform for some reason, the assumptions may be that they are no longer committed to their work or have an issue to relating to another team member or manager.

A compassionate leader who asks the right questions in the right way may find out the person is having personal issues creating stress or lack of focus, or some outside pressures on their time and sleep such as illness of a family member. The performance issue in fact has nothing to do with work, and with accommodations and support their usual level of quality and attention will return, and the organisational compassion will be rewarded with increased loyalty and commitment in the future.

So in effect, showing compassion can have a long term benefit to the organisation. This is exactly what researcher Christina Boedker found in a recent study.

‘Out of all of the various elements in a business, the ability of a leader to be compassionate—that is, “to understand people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be”—has the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity, Boedker observes. “It’s about valuing people and being receptive and responsive to criticism.”

Compassion in leadership isn’t weak. It’s not about simple kindness. It’s not about making exceptions to organisational requirements; it’s about balancing both sets of needs. It’s about leading, guiding and managing your team with genuine consideration and kindness.
Bill Cropper, Director of The Change Forum says, “The reality is powerful leaders, amongst their other traits, have the conviction, confidence and courage to cultivate connectivity and compassion.”

Are you brave enough to become a compassionate leader?


About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

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