Finding Compassion without Losing Power
Compassion is essential to exceptional leadership, extraordinary results, powerful impact, and richness of life.
What does compassionate leadership look like? The opposite of compassion is mean.
- Send the message that they can’t be questioned.
- Don’t understand the personal goals of people on their team.
- Disregard the emotional impact of their behaviors.
- Elevate personal interests over serving. They make life easy for them and hard for others.
- Coerce rather than influence.
- Manipulate rather than connect.
- Control rather than release.
- Berate and yell.
- Play politics.
- Stand aloof.
The sticky side of compassion is the notion that compassionate leaders don’t confront tough issues, challenge negative behaviors, or expect excellence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Compassionate leaders confront and challenge because it’s what’s best for individuals and organizations. Weak leaders propagate mediocrity with falsely protective behaviors.
Protection makes people weak.
Compassionate leaders seek the highest good of others and the success of their organization. Anything less is selfish.
12 marks of compassionate leaders:
- Create shared performance standards.
- Understand and leverage the talents of their team.
- Adapt to others rather than demanding others adapt to them.
- Hold themselves to the highest standards of performance.
- Refuse to fix everyone’s problems for them. Lousy leaders coddle.
- Recognize motivation is an individual matter.
- Communicate with transparency, candor, kindness, and optimism.
- Take responsibility to develop others.
- Serve “with” rather than lording it “over.”
- Act respectfully toward others, even if they feel disrespected.
- Say thank-you even while pursuing excellence.
Compassion enables relationship. Relationship enhances influence. Leadership is influence.
Facebook fans chimed in on, “The quality I’d most like to develop is ________.” One reader filled in the blank with, “compassion.”
How can compassion strengthen leadership?
What are the dangers of compassion?
You’re right, Dan. God gave us [ all persons, or I guess, persons who wish the responsibility] “dominion” over the earth, not “domination.” I believe this to mean “the responsibility and the authority to be concerned, to care, and to have compassion” for what we do, how we do it, who we do it with, and our outcomes.
Your ideas about responsibility and authority are helpful…. be concerned, care, have compassion.
As I think about compassion thinking of myself as disconnected and “over” seems to be a hindrance to the goal.
Yet another great post! Compassionate leaders are indeed wise and inclusive.
I’ve been thinking about compassion a lot lately in the context of leadership and personal development. What compassion is and how to cultivate it are not yet well understood.
In my experience, compassion comes from awareness, acceptance and understanding of things as they are, and insight into how things might be. This vision of what’s possible, when coupled with an innate understanding of personal responsibility, can lead compassionate leaders to expect, inspire and encourage a lot from themselves and those they engage with personally and professionally. From experience I know this can be tough for employees, but I’ve also found that they value and appreciate it as they begin to see just how much they can do and how impactful they can be.
p.s. For some of my musings on compassions, see http://www.lpdcoach.com/Compassion.html and let me know your thoughts, for I’ll be writing more about compassion soon.
Thanks Rashmir. I like that you include circumstance as a component of compassion. … seeing things as they are, for example.
Love it! If a leader can’t show compassion and lead compationatley, they are causing a great diservice to their employer, customers, employee’s, and themselve’s. Compassionate leaders care more. They care about producing a quality product or service realizing that connecting with employee’s emotionally and with empathy models excellant charactor that inspire’s other’s to be true to what is worthy and what is rite. Even in situations involving employee discapline . The goal is to correct a behavior or action while supporting the individual, giving clear obtainable goals then when reached are acknowledged with a sincere ‘atta-boy’. Berating an individual with stinging critisism’s can cause disengagment that lead’s to ill feelings that can last a lifetime. Compassionate leaders connect by constantly finding new ways to inspire employee’s not tear them down. At it’s core, I believe being a compassionate leader is realizing the infinate power of putting people and their emotions first, for one cannot be separated from the other. “Who wouldn’t want to work a compassionate leader”!
Thanks Steve. You help us see that compassion includes caring about results. The broad idea that compassion is caring is helpful. The more we care the more compassion.
Who wouldn’t want to work for a compassionate leader? EXACTLY!
Excellent, compassion is not compromising a standard, it is bring others that standard in a way appropriate to their position/capability. It’s candid and straight forward, without bring hurtful.
Great distinction you’ve made there. Very useful
I think of myself as a compassionate person. I’ve had an adequate number of challenges in my life to make me so.
But….once upon a time I owned a school business. My second in command was also compassionate possibly to a fault. When anyone wanted to come in late or leave early they would ask her not me. They learned that quickly on their own.
One day I looked around and said, “Where is everyone?” We were way out of line with what our pupil teacher ratio should be. If a licensing person had come in to inspect, they would have shut us down with good reason. There needs to be an adequate number of adults to keep children safe.
That is one of the business dangers of compassion. I didn’t over react. Who wants to hurt a compassionate person? But I made a new rule.
I think that some leaders that have what seems to be a mean spirit sometimes, are just more afraid that people will run over him. That is why I think that it is great that you have this site for just those leaders.
I will share this and pray that the right people even just one, as they say will get all the value that you put in this and all your others.
Have a awesome day Dan.
Compassion-deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
Kinda not feeling the sticky side or loss of power if one is truly practicing what this word really means.
What it sounds like more to me Dan is attempting to manipulate under the guise of practicing compassion.
In my experience not going to work out very well.
True compassion is strength and the only danger is not giving it. Why? We get what we give, always, sometimes quickly but always, eventually.
SP back to oxytocin generating.
This is *the* post I’ve always wanted to read on Leadership Freak.
Great post. As a gym owner/trainer it is definitely a delicate balance. A combination of tough love balanced out with compassion is key.
People need to be nudged but in the end we all do need to understand the challenges other people face. I find that I can really connect with people when they realize that I have walked in their shoes.
Showing compassion allows a much higher level of trust to be built and that is the key for success in any relationship.
Great points Dan. I often teach leaders that when you take a coaching approach to address performance issues you can demonstrate compassion as well as firmness. I agree that the best leaders resist the temptation to solve problems for others.
rewireleadership.com is a really interesting website about the neurological effects of incorporating elements like compassion into leadership. Lots of resources too.
Reblogged this on Lead Me On and commented:
These are great tips on finding compassion without giving up the status and credibility we need. I particularly like the idea of the “stickiness” of compassion. When we’re co-dependent, we don’t challenge, we make nice. It’s the caregiver archetype at its most dangerous. But more often, we push that compassion into the “shadow,” the unconscious, and the result is what you call “mean leaders.” In western culture, many of us push the caregiver/the compassionate heart into the unconscious, because we over value the individualistic leader — in our case, the ruler, the warrior, and the sage. As with any quality, balance and discernment are key. Sometimes a smile may be compassionate, but sharing it too often (like apologies) causes a leader to lose power (especially for women). Complicated and important.
Leaders who are motivated by their own fear have little compassion for subordinates they in turn “motivate” by bullying and control. The team who tries to teach this kind of leader compassion is in a very precarious position, but it is the only way. Would appreciate your thoughts on this.
Seems like “simultaneous mentoring” on a group level.