Leadership Soapbox – Compassion in Leadership

What role does compassion play in leadership?


Hi everybody, my name’s Neil Poynter, and welcome to a special, quick edition of The Leadership Soapbox, an additional one this week.

And today, I’m going get on my soapbox a bit, because there’s something I want to talk about. And it’s the subject of compassion in leadership and do they work?

Is compassion part of leadership?

Well, okay, I’m going to start off with a quote from Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister, who’s recently been re-elected on a landslide. Let’s just listen to what she says,

“One of the criticisms I faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

Jacinda Ardern

Well, let’s take this apart and also, let’s put this into a context. The context is what we are living in at the moment. People are scared. People are concerned. If we talk about, “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” we are down at level two concerns. People are worried about their safety and security. So what’s our role as leaders now?

I would put it to you that Jacinda has got it absolutely right. Compassion is integral to good leadership. Now, just think about it for a moment, leadership is about people. If you don’t care about your people, if you don’t bring compassion into your decisions when you are leading, you’re not caring about your people, therefore, you know, what are you doing?

Now, what I’m seeing is an increasing amount of macho posturing from leaders, puffing out their chests, trying to stride around the stage they’re on and going, “Look at me.” No, that’s not your job as a leader. What your job as a leader, that I would put it to you, is to make your people successful, to make them feel secure and good in what they are doing and confident about what they are doing and able to move forward.

Our job as leaders is to make our people successful.

Now, part of that is compassion. When we are in difficult times, when we are struggling, when people are genuinely concerned about what is going on in the world, that is when leaders have to step forward and demonstrate their compassion.

Now, guys, and I’m going to say something here, guys, maybe, just maybe, we need to learn something from the more feminine side of leadership here.

We need to care. Now, I don’t think this is necessarily a problem, okay? Let me tell you where I learned this. I learned this at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. I learned this as a young Army officer. You care about your people. You care about your soldiers, very simple lesson. Your soldiers eat first. You don’t eat first. You make sure your soldiers are looked after first. That’s compassion. You’re caring for them. You’re making sure they get what they need in order to be successful.

But also in our decisions, we have to be thinking about the impact of what we are doing on our people. What’s going to be the effect of this decision I am making right now on my team?

Now, sometimes we need to make tough decisions. I get that. I totally get that. But how you then behave with that tough decision, how you follow through on it, do you demonstrate that even though it may be harsh, and I’m thinking now companies are having to make redundancies.

I understand that, it’s tough. But how you treat those people who you are going to let go demonstrates to the people who are staying, how you really think about them. There is nothing wrong in being compassionate. There is everything wrong with macho chest-puffing and trying to be the big man. That is not leadership. That is self-aggrandisement. And that is something completely different.

I put it to you, that this is a really important thing that we need to be thinking about. What are you doing to demonstrate compassion, to be compassionate? And it has to be authentic. So what can we do to support our people?

And I think this is a really, really important part of what we’re doing at the moment and what leaders need to be about. So what is going on? What do you think? What can you do?

What, let’s have a discussion about this, about compassion and about where it fits in leadership today. Thank you very much. I’m Neil Poynter. Subscribe to the channel below if you can, and let’s have that conversation about compassion because it’s important.

Thank you very much.