Few would dispute the benefits of compassion – but does it have a role when leading? What is the business case for compassionate leadership?

First, let’s take an opposing leadership approach. A command and control type who leads from the premise of defence and attack does two things:

1. Protects an organisation or group from an outside threat
2. Forces its members to tow the line – you are either ‘with’ your leader or ‘against’ her.

Understandably, we want a strategy which protects our interests and retains our rights. However, not at the expense of alienating, harming and silencing those with a different set of opinions and ideas.

Instead of seeking to understand another’s difference – difference is judged to be a threat.

So, what does a compassionate leader do instead?

According to the Institute of Compassionate Leadership,

“Socially conscious, self-aware and compassionate leaders are the change-makers of the 21st century”.

“Compassionate leaders will rise up to meet worldwide challenges and strive to shape a better and brighter future for our planet”.

Based on the principles of loving-kindness advocated by the Dalai Lama, Bill Cropper of the Change Forum identified the following NINE behaviours of a compassionate leader.

Compassionate Leaders:

  1. Engage in connective conversations with others
  2. Use positive emotions to inspire others
  3. Put people before procedures – they are willing to set aside or change outmoded rules and regulations for the greater good
  4. Show sincere, heartfelt consideration – and genuinely care for the well-being of others
  5. Are mindful – awake to their own feelings, aware of the impact they have on others and attentive and empathetic to the needs of others
  6. Are hopeful – they move others passionately and purposefully with a shared vision that plays on the positive, energising and renewing power of hope.
  7. Have the courage to say what they feel – they convey feelings, fears, even doubts, authentically, which builds trust and makes them approachable.
  8. Take positive and affirming action – they don’t just pay lip service to a cause they make a promise, act on it and keep it.
  9. Engage others in frank, open dialogue – they speak candidly with truth, humility, respect and conviction – and make it safe for others to do so too.

Of course we are conditioned to think that if we show compassion in business, people will think we are vulnerable, have no backbone and exploit our ‘weaknesses’.

We have spent decades becoming more businesslike. However, during the process, many have ended up in silos, encased in some pretty impenetrable, compassion-proof armour.

According to Bill Cropper, we need to spend less energy on battening down the hatches and more time engaging with others. A compassionate leader listens more, judges less, and acts humanely.

Surely this approach encourages cooperation, improves performance and contributes to better outcomes for all. Let’s get cracking on Bill’s compassionate checklist now!


Do drop me a line if you’d like more information about Compassionate Leadership emma@emmafalkner.com

Or check out my collaborative leadership course