Compassionate Leadership is the Most Effective

Authenticity Empathy Respect


Key Point: Understand what it means to be a compassionate leader. Do you want to be an effective leader? Do you want to be a truly happy and gratified leader? I want to filter through all the leadership fog and noise and give you a few scientific leadership “facts” as we best understand them today.

  1. According to research by two of the worlds most eminent leadership scholars, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, only one factor scientifically differentiated top quarter performing managers from bottom ones: AFFECTION! Both wanted, and expressed affection. They show more warmth, fondness, and get closer to people. They are more open. WE LIKE THEM in PROPORTION to HOW THEY MAKE US FEEL and RESPOND WITH OUR WORK ACCORDINGLY!
  1. The happiness state can be scientifically measured through sophisticated brain scans. I won’t get into the anatomy and research details, but scientists can literally see the part of the brain that indicates levels of happiness. The highest happiness states ever scientifically recorded belong primarily to Tibetan monks who are mediation masters. However, meditation practice is not sufficient to get one to the highest happiness state. That end state, scientifically endorsed, can only be achieved through focusing on COMPASSION.

The renowned Tibetan scholar, Thupten Jimpa, describes compassion as, “The mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and the aspiration to see that suffering relieved.” It has the following components:

Cognitive: “I understand you.”

Affective: “I feel for you.”

Motivational: “I want to help you.”

One leading indication of a compassionate leader is an authentic transformation from “I” to “We.” Only when leaders are self aware enough to stop focusing on and being driven by their own egos, can they fully develop themselves and others. In Jim Collins‘ iconic book, Good to Great, he describes Level 5 leaders as paradoxically humble and ambitious about achieving results (ideally for the greater good). This Level 5 behavior is congruent with compassionate leadership.

Character Moves:

  1. Compassionate leadership is not fluffy behavior. On the contrary, “tough” leadership is compassionate leadership. One has to be open, caring and willing to fully invest in the aspirational well being of others. This leadership style is rewarding and even fun with people we like to work with. Try applying the three intentions stated above to those who you might be in conflict with… Those you perceive to be driven by their ego, sense of wanting to win at your perceived expense. How are you and I doing in those circumstances? Compassionate leaders approach ALL with the same intent; to understand, feel and help.
  1. Learn more about the value of practicing mindfulness. In order to be compassionate as a leader, one has to be present, centered and fully aware. Flying through the day with an emotion filled seat of the pants reaction will make compassionate leadership inconsistent at best, unattainable at worst.
  1. Remember this is tough minded leadership. Why? Because compassionate leaders know how to have direct, difficult and even fierce conversations in the most effective ways. They do not weakly rely on organization authority or power to “lead.” They are powered by compassion.

Compassionate leadership in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Those dealing with adversity sometimes bare an impenetrable shield when leaders try to help and relate. Some millennials may disregard a good leader’s attempt to be empathetic by reverting to a state of mind that concludes that no leader could possibly understand, feel, or want to help, because they’re too removed from their struggle. This victim mentality can take over and completely overlook the main point: The intention is good. Unfortunately for some, that “intention” isn’t enough because they think leaders will never really take a literal walk in their shoes. Well, no kidding! Sorry, why the heck would they? Be smarter than that. If you’re fortunate enough to have a leader willing to put on an imaginary pair of your ugly, cheap, worn out shoes, then be grateful that they’re even willing to try. Look at the big picture enough to accept and receive guidance when you can. They’re not going to just give you nicer shoes, you still have to walk your own crappy path, but thank your lucky stars if someone is willing to show you the trail to acquire some polish. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis