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The Compassionate Leader

The word ‘compassion’ can be defined as the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others.

Compassion The Leader's Digest by Suzi McAlpine

It is, however, a word not often heard in the corporate world.

Like the word ‘feelings’, the use of the word ‘compassion’ is often relegated to ‘touchy-feely’ land.

We are more comfortable with concepts (and words) such as results, action, logic, profits and outcomes…but simply not naming something does not mean it does not (or should not) exist.

Tenzin Gyatso; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama - The Leader's Digest, by Suzi McAlpine
Tenzin Gyatso; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is widely recognised as one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders.

He says the purpose of life is happiness, which is only possible with compassion, and:

“I believe each human being has the potential to change, to transform one’s own attitude, no matter how difficult the situation.”

Practicing kindness and compassion may have no place in the business world, according to some, but I disagree.

I believe compassion and profits are not mutually exclusive but practicing compassion can actually lead to greater profits and better results for organizations, particularly if it becomes entwined in its culture.

Consider the company who went well above and beyond contractual obligations for the employee who had cancer.

Consider the US venture firm that donates half it’s profits up front to philanthropic causes.

Consider the manager who demonstrated a truly compassionate attitude during the restructuring of his division.

My challenge to you is this:

What would happen if we practiced more compassion in our business dealings? With our suppliers?  With our customers?  With our teams?  With ourselves?

Like the concept of trust, what rewards could you reap in business by showing compassion?

Here is a clip featuring Chade-Meng Tan, talking about everyday compassion at Google – when you have 15 minutes I highly recommend watching it.

Chade Meng-Tan, Compassion at Google, The Leader's Digest by Suzi McAlpine

Takeaway:

What ways could you or your organization start demonstrating more compassion?

What are your own attitudes towards compassion in the business world?

What are you afraid might happen if you were to be more compassionate in your daily interactions with others?

What small gesture of compassion could you make today at work?

– Suzi

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2 Comments

  1. […] here for more on the role compassion plays in effective leadership and here for an exceptional blog on […]

  2. My Black Beloved on October 16, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I completely agree – compassion is one of the most important traits of effective leadership.
    – Benjamin.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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