How to Lead with Compassion but Not Be a Pushover

Compassion goes wrong when it goes too far. Too much compassion prolongs helplessness, failure, and mediocrity.

Compassion done well fuels confidence, excellence, and success.

Organizations without compassion are fear-filled, ugly places to work.

bubbling paint


Don’t extend compassion to those who won’t acknowledge need. They’ll despise you for it.

Extend compassion to those who acknowledge failure, struggle, turmoil, or uncertainty. Otherwise, stay available, but let them struggle.


Compassion is weak and irrelevant in organizations that punish honesty, frailty, transparency, and candor.

Where imperfections are punished, compassion is liability.

Who on your team needs compassion today?

Watch for:

  1. Painful failure.
  2. Personal struggles.
  3. Personality clashes.
  4. Physical maladies.
  5. Emotional turmoil.
  6. Circumstantial uncertainty.
  7. Challenging opportunities that stretch skills and experience.

7 ways to be a compassionate leader:

  1. Face the inconvenience that comes with concern for another’s well-being. Compassion takes time, energy, and patience. It takes strength to show compassion.
  2. Move toward those who struggle even though others want justice – stand with – rather than standing aloof.
  3. Extend forgiveness to those who regret failure. Give second chances.
  4. Speak with kindness while holding high standards.
  5. See from another’s point of view.
  6. Withhold anger.
  7. Meet a need.

Bonus: Leadership compassion includes managing-out those who don’t fit.

Compassion only matters when things go wrong.

7 compassion tips:

  1. Don’t extend compassion to excuse-makers and blamers, unless you want more blame and excuses. Compassion is affirmation.
  2. Remember your own struggle, frailty, and failure. Competence is won through hard fought battles.
  3. Show concern, but don’t intervene unless invited.
  4. Discuss issues kindly. Help people find their own solutions. Don’t solve.
  5. Affirm past efforts before talking next time.
  6. Extend compassion after struggle or failure, not before. Don’t protect people; enable them.
  7. Ask, “What are you learning?”

When does compassion go too far?
How can leaders show compassion without being pushovers.