Are good leaders and good managers compassionate? Is good leadership and management ultimately an ‘act of compassion’ or ‘love in action’? Is the responsible use of power compassionate? Is compassion the glue of humanity?
The Dalai Lama says that “Every human being has the same potential for compassion; the only question is whether we really take any care of that potential, and develop and implement it in our daily life.” He defines compassion as “a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering, associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect towards the other…”. He goes further to state that “True compassion toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. (It) is based not on our own projections and expectations, but on the needs of the other, irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy.”
Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa defines compassion as “a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved”. He details three components: 1) the cognitive component of “I understand you”, 2) the affective component of “I feel for you”, and 3) the motivational component of “I want to help you”.
I recently wrote about my belief that the universal religion is compassion, but I had not actively thought about how compassion might make one an effective leader. In leadership roles, leaders are charged with shifting from an “I” mentality to a “We” perspective. Chade-Meng Tan says that great companies have compassionate leaders. There is a general sense amongst followers that humble leaders focus on the greater good for everyone instead of individual needs and wants. By understanding and feeling for others, a leader can then develop the want within to help others. A great leader must first empathize (feel for another) before connecting with and feel compassion for the people he is fortunate to lead. Putting others needs before our own without expecting something in return (giving selflessly) is benevolent.
Christina Boedker, a lecturer in accounting at the Australian School of Business, says that it is critical “to understand people's motivators, hopes and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be". Geoff Aigner, director of Social Leadership Australia, believes that to activate compassionate leadership, managers need to first understand themselves and the power they exercise. Then, in an act of compassion, managers and leaders take responsibility for the growth and development of others. Compassion does not always equate to kindness though, and compassion means getting people where they want to go; this can sometimes mean that a difficult conversation or decision must be conducted. Camille Funk, an educator and author, states that “a wise leader uses compassion to perceive the needs of those he leads, and astutely determine the course of action that would be of greatest benefit to the individual as well as the team”.
I believe that compassion is the global leadership and followership staple for all people in all endeavors. Everyone can embody living in self by practicing compassion – it is through this practice that one will reach a high level of existence where we truly understand the people we are charged to lead and become a part of unlocking their potential. Daren Blonski, a leadership consultant, says that “the highest and most noble form of leadership is only realized when compassion is the major operating paradigm”. Throughout history, some of the world’s greatest leaders were compassionate; great leaders envision the world in a different way and communicate their vision in a way that resonates with the people and speaks to their needs/desires in a way that the people then mobilize towards a common goal for the greater good.
Being a compassionate person and leader can turn your routine day-to-day interactions with people into high-performance, high-engagement associations. Our relationships are our biggest assets. Here are five ways to be a compassionate leader:
Ms. Bhakti Mary
I am an optimistic, positive, generous and driven woman who is passionate about self-improvement.
The essence of who you are does not lie in the past. What matters is what you are willing to do NOW. You are the presence.