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Compassion in Leadership:


A recent study from Harvard revealed that, Compassion not only amplifies other important leadership competencies, it’s a differentiator for success. The six key building blocks of compassionate leadership all together, they improve employee engagement, well-being and intention to stay with an organization.

1. Integrity – a sense of professional transparency and a personal and professional alignment with what a leader would say and do (e.g., consciously “walking the talk”), bringing their whole self to work, and operating from their core values and beliefs

Integrity is further described as: “sharing of information (accurate, timely, and transparent), clearly communicating motivations and goals (vs. hidden agendas and plans), and handling conflict or disagreements directly (not encouraging gossip, or passive aggressive approaches).”

2. Accountability – the ideals of action-oriented responsibility (e.g., setting high performance standards, casting clear expectations, sharing feedback, and implementing specific rewards and recognition for high achievement)

“The actions of accountability meant taking intentional steps to address difficult situations, even when that meant letting someone go, redirecting an employee into a different direction, or having a tough conversation, despite acknowledged power and status differences.”

3. Presence – the ability of a leader to stay attuned to people and situations by focusing their attention on the present moment (e.g., a personal state of awareness and attention, deeply listening, and paying attention to non-verbal cues)

“Relative to other compassionate leader behaviors, presence relates to the self-mastery of a leader’s emotional and cognitive capacity in tuning out other pressing organizational issues in response to employees’ needs in the moment. Such actions signal to the organization that employees are valuable and valued and more, they enhance employees’ feelings of competence.” 

4. Empathy – delivered through an understanding of another’s perspective, thoughts and/or feelings, and taking action (e.g., an awareness of other personalities, needs, goals, and motivations as well as the ability to summarize the tone and content of conversations)

“Empathy was characterized by and required actions that could demonstrate attunement to an employee’s thoughts, feelings, and experience.”

5. Authenticity – showing vulnerability, and openness in sharing their experiences (including success and failures) with others, and having a strong sense of self and being less concerned about receiving validation from others

“Compassion is authentic, it’s genuine, it’s real, it’s caring for those you have the privilege to either lead or work with. So, I try to really model that and I try to encourage it in others in all of the ways that I can. And I think that comes back to saying, if I value your whole self…if I’m valuing what’s important to you but I’m also valuing where you’re struggling then hopefully that feels like compassionate leadership.”

6. Dignity – honoring the fundamental worth of each human being, including openly displaying an attitude of acceptance and tolerance of differences, and providing a consistent, sensitivity toward others and celebrating what makes each person unique

“So, there’s this sense that every human being is of value intrinsically.”