Done poorly, compassion prolongs weakness, propagates irresponsibility, and validates destructive behaviors.
Compassion, like all great virtues, requires insight to be practiced skillfully.
Compassion is a ‘people first’ approach to leadership. It’s messy and more difficult, but advantages include:
- Courage to try again after falling short.
When leaders reject compassion in order to achieve results they dehumanize organizations.
‘People first’ is a disservice to organizations when compassion for one person dishonors, de-energizes, or devalues others.
Immature compassion refuses to speak hard truths. Any compassion based on lies is a vile excuse for a noble virtue. Mature compassion is willing to hurt to help.
Compassion is never avoidance.
Misguided compassion retreats from challenging people to challenge themselves. Anything that prolongs mediocrity can’t be compassion. It’s never compassionate to accept half-hearted effort as normal.
Compassion calls for exceptional performance from capable team members. It’s offensive to accept average performance from highly talented people.
It’s easier to lay down the law than to figure out what compassion means. Mature compassion is rich, powerful, and challenging. It’s compassionate, for example, to protect teams from energy vampires*, even if it means removing them.
If you aren’t sure what compassion looks like, explore options. Ask the team what it looks like to show compassion to a team member who isn’t performing well. Ask the teammate. Ask people outside your organization.
Companions of compassion:
Compassion needs companions to achieve noble ends.
Compassion on its own validates the concerns leaders have about weakness, cowardice, and lackluster performance.
Compassion is a perfect companion for:
- Conflict resolution.
- Hiring and firing.
Compassion reaches its goal when it fills people with courage, resolve, and energy.
Long-term advantage is achieved when leaders show compassion on short-term frailties.
What concerns do leaders have about compassion?
How might leaders integrate compassion into their leadership?
*”Energy vampires” come from Jon Gordon’s best selling book, The Energy Bus.