I Felt Compassion in His Voice
Some leaders are jerks.
The good news is, you can have heart and lead.
Steven Kydd, one of the founders of Tastemade, a top 10 most innovative company in food, surprised me when our conversation drifted to a personal story.
Our middle son was taking a shower in Kathmandu when the 7.8 earthquake hit last April. Fortunately, he ended up in the street uninjured, wrapped in a towel.
Steven’s response was spontaneous, compassionate, and human. Yes, you can lead and still be a real person. As a matter of fact, the most outstanding leaders I know aren’t hard asses.
Listen in on our conversation (4:28):
7 ways to lead with compassion:
- Courageously commit to be human. We all know posturing and image-building is fear and fakery. The world doesn’t need another fraud, it needs you.
- Connect with yourself. Steven’s compassion toward me came from his experience as a father. Compassion for others is born in personal experiences, struggles, and challenges. Have you failed? Embrace it. Do you struggle? Feel it.
- Allow others to feel. Don’t minimize emotion. Say, “I see this means a lot to you,” for example.
- Rise above your inner fixer. Let yourself feel compassion, but don’t feel the need to fix everyone. Fixing people is more arrogance than compassion.
- Be tough and compassionate at the same time. Fear makes us believe that saying hard things requires detachment. It’s the opposite. The tougher you have to be, the more tenderness you must feel.
- Beware drama. Some use emotion to gain attention. They’re energy vampires. Be tough with those who persist in “woe is me” behaviors.
- Commit to more than results. Work to enhance the well-being of teammates, employees, customers, and the larger community.
Successful leaders enhance the well-being of others.
What makes compassion uncomfortable to leaders?
What does leading with compassion look like?
**Steven Kydd is speaking at the World Business Forum in New York City. Don’t miss it.
Compassion, not baby sitting. Compassion: human caring for the individual and their struggles, heartaches, etc.. and shared joy in their accomplishments.
As you call “hardass” is needed: when the employee (or contractor) is not fulfilling their duties, IMO, is still needed. Or perhaps you could coach me through my thinking errors.
I totally agree with “compassion, not baby sitting.”
Compassion isn’t weakness or tolerance for behaviors that violate values. It’s not compassionate to allow someone to perform below their potential. The hardass addresses tough issues with a cold heart. I’m shooting for the idea that we can be tough and tender at the same time.
Love this post Dan! Great tips for any leader. The only one that worries me a bit is #6. I can see uncompassionate leaders dismissing some real cries for help as attention seekers.
Thanks Sarah. I can see your concern. Perhaps repetition answer our concerns. When a person always needs others to serve them, but they don’t serve others, they are an energy vampire.
Everyone needs to be served/helped. But, we all must focus our attention on serving others, not being served.
Reminded me of a great book I read by one of favorite leaders- Brian Klemmer- The Compassionate Samurai. Great post and a great reminder of how to lead and be real at the same time!
Thanks Esse. Here’s a link to The Compassionate Samurai.
Thanks Dan. Can you give me an example of how being tough on “woe is me behaviors” can look like?
Thanks Al. You might think about ask the employee who always talks about their own problems how they might focus more on others. And, Hold them accountable.
Dan, your observations and then writing on “high-touch” leadership elements bring great dimension to your posts—and they evoke thought. For example, the father-son relationship in Steven Kydd’s story reminded me of how sometimes God loves us not because of who WE are, rather because of who HE is. This can be analogous to how leaders care for staff not because of who they are, rather because who LEADERS are.
You also speak to being HUMAN–leading and still be a real person. I wonder if we blame things on “ourselves” needlessly, unnecessarily and even unknowingly, rather than attributing our fears, negativity, uncertainty, resistance, and even lack of compassion—simply on being HUMAN. Do we experience stress and bad moods because we are us, or because we’re HUMAN?
Compassion is a sense of common humanity. And once we feel this share destiny it’s incredibly liberating. I believe one of the biggest issues we can face is the thought that our challenges are somehow unique to us—that we’re the only ones experiencing fear and doubt, etc. Or, we’re experiencing it because something is inherently wrong with us.
The fact is most people don’t focus on what they have in common with others, especially when they feel inadequate or ashamed, for example. Rather than framing their imperfection in light of their shared human experience, they’re more likely to feel isolated and disconnected from the world around them and all the commonalities of other human “be-ings.”
Imagine this: To hurt and to have compassion is as human as to breathe.
I was just reading Peter DeWitt’s latest blog post in EdWeek. He wrote about ‘listen, learn, and lead’ contrasted with ‘lead’ alone. To me, that is the point you’re making in this post. If we listen and learn first, we will understand the situation better. Do we need to simply encourage and support what’s being proposed or worked on? Do we need to ask more questions and discuss things further? Or, on some occasions, do we need to change directions – with reasons given?
I don’t believe compassion can really be exhibited without the listening and learning.
On the one hand, Beware drama. Some use emotion to gain attention. They’re energy vampires. It’s very helpful. I usually take care of those people and may be I’m wrong.
On the other hand, Fixing people is more arrogance than compassion. This tip made me to review my suggestions. So, I appreciate it very much. I always thought I was helpfull. Maybe I wasn’t.