Meeting Chaos with Compassion
Why Compassionate Leadership development is the key to organizational agility in a turbulent world.
Our current leadership is outdated.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we’re living in a world that has become increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA). We’re traveling at a high-speed velocity toward a more interconnected, more elaborate, and more unpredictable world. Organizations are becoming more dynamic and distributed, rendering the hierarchical practices of leadership in centralized organizations brittle in our future world (1).
Our future is an opportunity to redefine leadership.
While the everchanging context of the business world can be overwhelming and terrifying, it also presents organizations with an incredible opportunity to increase their adaptability and redefine their leadership. Organizations now have a chance to turn away from the brittle, traditional models of task-oriented and hierarchical leadership, focusing instead on helping their leaders become sense-makers and sources of connection in a world that will differ profoundly from the one we live in today.
Organizations have an opportunity to cultivate growth from chaos, by embracing a new kind of leadership that encourages people to inspire, connect, and adapt like never before. They have a chance to set their sights on something that is better, braver, and bolder than we’ve ever seen: Compassionate Leadership.
What is Compassionate Leadership?
Compassionate leadership is the ability to acknowledge and act. It requires leaders to not only recognize and appreciate another person’s emotions, but to go a step further, taking action to support them however they can. Compassionate leaders don’t let their empathy stay within themselves – they engage in active care. They’re able to meet people where they’re at and help them get to where they want to be.
For example, at Pinsight, we became aware of the fear we had for our own health and families as the Coronavirus was sweeping the globe. That translated into sending messages of care and understanding to our team, and also the decision to act to implement a new sick leave policy and an upgraded health insurance protection for all employees. We understood their concerns, and we took action at the systems level to ensure our employees felt safe and secure.
As human beings, we all capable of experiencing empathy, or the ability to “put ourselves in another person’s shoes”. Empathy is all about feeling—or at least imagining— what another person feels, in order to identify and connect with them. It’s the internal ability to understand the feelings of another – and it’s the bedrock for Compassionate Leadership.
Whereas empathy typically rests within an individual, compassion takes it a step further: it makes empathy an outward expression of caring. Compassion meets empathy with action, and it requires extra effort – especially in leadership. It’s not something we’re naturally born with; we have to learn it—which means organizations have to be intentional about how they help develop it.
How can organizations develop Compassionate Leaders?
In a world that demands we refocus our sights on human connection in leadership, organizations need to encourage leaders to develop Compassionate Leadership competencies now, more than ever. While Compassionate Leadership development is a multifaceted process, at its core, it involves learning a new skillset. This skillset is a mixture of behaviors, attitudes, frameworks, and actions that equips leaders to engage in active care and compassion as they lead through the turbulence of our future.
When we develop any new skill, we are forced to unlearn the old, so that we can make room for and embrace the new. In the context of cultivating Compassionate Leadership skillsets, this means that organizations must:
- Unlearn the existing leadership frameworks and practices that are incompatible with Compassionate Leadership
- Strategically identify Compassionate Leadership competencies of the future and develop new mindsets and behaviors that align with those skills.
These steps are incredibly complex, and our next blog posts will discuss both of these aspects more in-depth. Check back soon to learn about how organizations can unlearn biased hiring and promotion behaviors that are incompatible with Compassionate Leadership and make room for mastering new competencies. In the meantime, check out our research report Repairing the Broken Rung: Overcoming Bias in the Leadership Pipeline to learn more about unconscious bias.
(1) Johansen, Bob. The new leadership literacies: Thriving in a future of extreme disruption and distributed everything. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2017.‹ Previous PostNext Post ›