One Secret to Innovation, Collaboration, and Engagement

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion … .” Albert Einstein

3 advantages of compassion*:

  1. Innovation. Compassion enables learning by fostering psychological safety.
  2. Collaboration. Compassion increases people’s willingness to work together.
  3. Engagement. Compassion helps people feel they matter.

*Adapted from, Awakening Compassion at Work.


Compassion feels like saying, “Gracias,” when you can’t speak a lick of Spanish. You’re a poser. In other cases, it feels like weakness.

How can you practice compassionate leadership when compassion feels awkward?

Think ‘and’ not ‘or’:

Think ‘and’ not ‘or’ when you imagine compassionate leadership.

Compassion elevates and expands leadership attributes. What happens in your thinking when you add compassion to the following leadership attributes?

  1. Toughness.
  2. Drive.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Initiative.
  5. Truth.
  6. Decisiveness.
  7. Focus.
  8. Technical skill.
  9. Grit.
  10. Accountability.

Compassion enriches daily leadership behaviors. Toughness, for example, without compassion is cruelty. 

Compassion enlarges thinking. One leader said the most impactful coaching conversation he had happened when I asked, “What does your compassionate self tell you to do?”


How do you learn compassion?

Monica Worline and Jane Dutton explain that noticing is the channel for awakening compassion.  (Awakening Compassion at Work.”)

I asked Monica how to show compassion in a specific situation. A member of a team I work with felt some unusual concerns the day the team was scheduled to meet. His brother was donating a kidney to his sister.

Monica explained the power of noticing.

At the beginning of the meeting, I mentioned Bob’s brother and sister. (Everyone already knew.)

“What’s the latest?”

Bob said, “My brother is heading into surgery right now.”

“Feel free to leave if you need to take a call.” I said. It was an acknowledgement. Bob didn’t need my permission. 

“Please let us know if you receive any updates.”

“I will.”

Then we started our meeting.

What makes compassion a challenge for leaders?

How might leaders practice compassion?

**I recommend, “Awakening Compassion at Work,” I found it practical and useful.