Thursday 16 May 2013

Compassion Marks an Effective Leader at Work

Relationships are built on interactions which are in turn built from specific 'moments'. A critical moment in an interaction occurs when one person wants somethings from someone else. 'Wants' include wishes, needs, desires, hopes and longings. The want could range from something simple and concrete. For instance, 'Please pass me the salt'. Otherwise it could be complex and intangible, such as 'Please love me like a romantic partner' (perhaps more discreetly put).

Communication however if most often transmitted in other ways than words. Words constitute only a small part of communication (less than 20%). Most of the remaining (around 80%) modes of communication is imparted through use of tone, facial expressions, gestures and the like. This shows just how important a holistic type of communication is when we interact with others on a daily basis.

According to research, compassionate leaders are seen to be the most effective leaders. In Thupten Jinpa's words, a prominent Tibetan scholar, 'Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved'.

He defines compassion as having three main components. These are listed below:

1) A cognitive component
'I understand you'.

2) An affective component
'I feel for you'

3) A motivated component
'I want to help you'.

It seems that the most compelling benefit of compassion in a work-related context is that compassion is bound to create highly effective leaders. It truly takes a strong leader to move from goodness to greatness yet remaining level-headed and compassionate towards those considered 'inferior' to him or her.

In his book entitled Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't, Jim Collins (2001) outlines the traits possessed by a truly great leader. Interestingly, he classified these as Level 5 leaders who are endowed with qualities like humility and ambition in the context of the three components of compassion (cognitive, affective, motivational). He states that the cognitive and affective components of compassion (understanding people and empathizing with them) minimize the obsession that we might have within ourselves and hence create conditions for humility.

Meanwhile, the motivational component of compassion, particularly that of wanting to help people, creates spaces for greater deeds.This is what marks a Level 5 leadership and is one compelling benefit at work.

Adapted from Greater Good Blog

Nikita Pisani at Muovo


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