Compassionate leadership is understanding where you and others are coming from, feeling for yourself and others in a genuine way, and helping you and others to be successful. This means that compassion can look fierce or gentle.
When we interviewed leaders and asked if they believe compassion is important in leadership, we were surprised to hear a resounding yes. This was difficult to believe at first. If everyone thought it was important, how come we didn’t see or hear more examples of compassionate leadership? When we spoke with Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and Stanford professor who helped bring about the Lean Startup movement, we got our answer.
There is a significant difference between empathy and compassion, and it’s largely misunderstood.
Connection is a practice that needs to be embodied. Specifically, we need to cultivate practices across three dimensions in order to deepen our connection with others: awareness, caring, and action.
As conscious leaders, we are constantly tested on our competencies, values, and beliefs. We can’t always be prepared for the questions we will face. While admitting you may not know what to say is honest and important, leaving it at that can seem irresponsible — causing stress to yourself and crushing the hopes of others looking up to you. How can we better stand up for what we believe in when we are put on the spot, while keeping in mind that others are depending on us?
While watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show, do you ever feel you should be doing something more productive? When you’re working late, do you ever feel you should be going to the gym? While the “shoulds” in our lives help anchor us to what we believe matters in the world, unrealistic expectations of ourselves can become a source of suffering. The origin of these unrealistic expectations is a lack of self-compassion, the ability to recognize your own suffering coupled with the desire to alleviate it. The good news is that we are all capable of generating self-compassion by simply paying attention to our minds.
Should you hide bad news or tell your team the truth? Someone just said something awful to your peer; what do you do? How much time should you devote to helping your co-worker, especially since you’re so busy yourself? It’s not always easy to know the “right” thing to do. How we make decisions is based on our values — what we believe to be important in life and what gives us meaning and purpose.