By LOUISA DEVADASON
Compassion and love are co-existing concepts we are all too familiar with, yet struggle to define and understand amongst ourselves. Love, especially, takes so many forms and is expressed in so many ways, be it gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), or physical touch (intimacy).
The etymology of the word “compassion” is Latin and means “co-suffering.” More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering.
What does this all mean to a leader? Most crucially, leaders with compassion are at an advantage as highly-effective leadership necessitates this crucial value. It’s a transformative value that as Bill George, the widely-respected former chief executive officer of Medtronic puts it most succinctly, going from “I” to “We.”
American business consultant, author and lecturer, Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, set out to uncover defining factors that shifted a company from being just a “good” company to a “great” (defined as outperforming the general market by a factor of three or more) company for 15 years or more. Only 11 Fortune 500 companies met all the criteria.
Perhaps the most important finding in the book is the role of leadership. It takes a special type of leader to bring a company from goodness to greatness—one that demonstrates seemingly contradictory qualities: great ambition and personal humility. While extremely ambitious, their focus is for a larger purpose.
What makes compassionate leadership?
While Collins didn’t define how we cultivate compassionate leadership, officer in the Royal Navy and the Royal Hong Kong Marine Police turned motivational speaker Manley Hopkinson has a “Big Five” of values that are the basis of his book, Compassionate Leadership.
“It all starts here,” Hopkinson says. “Nothing else can happen if we are blind to ourselves and blind to others.” You need to know yourself and understand your reach.
Act on that awareness. Stand up and be the real you.
Believe in yourself and the actions you take. Be fully prepared to accept the consequences of your actions.
Hopkinson believes that the modern world encourages people to focus on the destination rather than the journey. “That is wrong,” he says. “The journey is where the joy is found.”
In essence, Hopkinson says, compassion is “having the peripheral vision to see others and help them along the journey of awareness, courage, confidence and joy.” He encourages us to reflect on the words of the Dalai Lama, “Empathy is a desire to know the other person. Compassion is to act on that knowledge with positive intent.”
Let’s challenge ourselves to live by The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.