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Today we are awake. No longer will we tolerate fear based leadership.  Slick suites, impressive credentials, and pure charm can no longer sustain the power of a leader. People everywhere are demanding to be seen and heard, and gone are the days when people can be told what to do.  Everyone wants to feel like they are part of the process, that they matter. They need to feel safe and supported, and given the space to be themselves. In other words, if you care more about your bottom line than for the people who work for you, you will lose them to your competitors.  It doesn’t matter if you have an MBA from Harvard or a high IQ; if you are not leading your team with compassion and wisdom, you cannot grow your company.

What is compassion? In my search of this definition I have found many different interpretations. The basic definition as defined by the dictionary is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” However, I think that definition offers the wrong impression of compassion and the actions that should be taken. A more  favorable interpretation:

Compassion means you work in the way the wind works, the sun works, or the air works. Take, for example, how the air assumes the shape of the room. The air does not say, ‘I will give you this breathing space provided you breathe the way I want.’ Everyone enjoys the benefit of being able to breathe in the air. It is the same way with the sun: the sun does not stop shining when there are clouds in the sky.
— Rinpoche, Khandro, and Khandro Rinpoche. "Compassion and Wisdom -- Khandro Rinpoche – Lion's Roar." Lion's Roar. July 13, 2017. Accessed May 28, 2019.

As a leader your compassion should not be reserved only for those who are “victims” or only when you feel like it. Instead, be compassionate in everything you do as a leader and in every decision you make for your organization. Being a compassionate leader does not mean you become “soft” or a “pushover.” Being a compassionate leader just means that you recognize and are aware of the lives that are affected everyday by your words and actions. A compassionate leader also recognizes that you cannot spare people of pain and suffering with your leadership, but rather that you will do your best to minimize work casualties by taking others into consideration first.

The good news is compassion can be cultivated in all of us.  A study at the University of Wisconsin- Madison suggests that compassionate meditation, or loving-kindness meditation, can increase the activities in different regions of the brain that are associated with increased empathy and emotions. Here is one technique you can try.

Set  your timer for 10 minutes. Start by sitting in a chair or on the floor, and extend the crown of your head to the ceiling. Open your chest, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and soften the muscles in your face, in your jaw, in your neck, and back. Give yourself full permission to submit into your seat, and start to inhale fully and exhale. Continue to breathe naturally, bringing awareness to the expansion and collapsing sensations  of your belly. When you feel settled, see your younger self in your mind’s eyes and on the inhalation say to yourself, “May I be well.” and then allow your mind to rest on your breath. On the following inhalation say to yourself “May I be safe.” on the next inhalation say to yourself “May I be happy.” Repeat this cycle at least three times.

When you’re done, bring your attention back to the sensation of your breath and  bring a neutral person to mind - someone you had minimal engagement with - maybe a barista, or the sales person at a store. As you inhale, say to the person, “May you be well.” On the next inhalation say to them, “May you be safe.” On the next inhalation say to them, “May you be happy.”  Repeat this at least three times.

Continue to bring awareness to the sensation of your breath. When you hear your timer ring or buzz, gently open your eyes, and wiggle your fingers and toes. This concludes the practice.

It is possible to have an organization that is harmonious, innovative, dynamic, creative, and progressive – all it takes is a compassionate leader. If you think that your organization or team is not healthy, I invite you to take the courageous step and take The Harvard Business Review Compassionate Leadership Assessment; often the problem isn’t with the team or organization but its with leadership.

How are you feeling about compassionate leadership? Are you getting more curious? Ask Us.