Compassion in Leadership

As we continue in our Character of Leadership Series, we will explore the trait of compassion.  Compassion is our ability as people and as leaders to see the world through the eyes of another, to understand what motivates and inspires others, what gives them joy and what weighs heavy on them. It's different than empathy, sympathy, kindness or passion though compassion may contain these elements to varying degrees depending on the situation. Compassionate leadership then attempts to understand those they lead, what motivates and inspires them and then forges shared purpose, values, vocabulary and a clear and deliberate direction.

Compassionate leadership is in effect Love-Led leadership as it is a posture of service, not selfishness.  Next Generation leaders are stewards and custodians - they create environments for a genuinely healthy community that allows for open participation and permission to fail. Permission to fail is powerful because it releases people for creativity, innovation, taking smart risks, and this is a great way to stay competitive in your field and explore new revenue opportunities.  Compassionate leadership allows us to inspire buy-in, cooperation, and passionate engagement, not just a command and conform model.  Compassionate leaders learn to listen to those who are quite comfortable sharing their ideas and provides encouragement and opportunity for those who are more reserved.  These kinds of leaders understand it is not about whose right and whose wrong, they will gather input across the spectrum of their team and look for the best ideas to achieve the goal.

Single Bottom line thinking doesn't produce this kind of growth, sustainability, and innovation. Single bottom line thinks only in terms of profit and loss, individuality versus team, mass layoffs/downsizing driven by the dollar.  Finances are important but not like they once were. Gen X, Y, etc.. are not motivated the same way the boomers were with money. They are more likely to work-to-live than live-to-work like their parents. Don't mistake this for laziness but a matter of values. The ability to lead compassionately, to inspire and create meaning is the key to tapping into this incredibly gifted workforce.

They value financial success but not at the cost of family, their life, the environment or someone else's well-being.  These employees doing higher-level cognitive tasks value meaning, something bigger than themselves and a way to make a difference.  Research is clearly demonstrating that creating the right kinds of work environments will measurably increase performance, innovation - this will put black ink where it counts!

Enter the New Bottom Line (Triple bottom line)

1. Black ink on a Profit and Loss
2. A Responsible Corporate Citizen - something bigger than just the bottom line - a meaningful contribution to the community, that makes life better for someone else in some way. This includes the environment and justice issues.  Employees should feel a sense of pride in the company they work for.
3. A content, engaged and innovative/creative workforce. These people find meaning in their work, and they have a real sense that they are genuinely cared for and appreciated.


Take Away

  • Effective leaders will help align and ease people towards a common purpose. They will listen and respond to what they are hearing and encourage learning at all levels.
  • Engaging leaders need to shift from a style that rewards individual achievement to one that rewards collective outcomes. We sink or swim together.
  • We need to reward the kinds of performance that are complementary to the Triple bottom line. Reward the right kinds of performance.
  • Transformational leaders think bigger. The "how we do" what we do matter as much as what we achieve. Compassion is embodied in giving and giving generously.

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