You aren’t leading if you aren’t doing this one thing

The biggest challenge leaders have, is that they need to give so much of themselves to others. Leaders need to constantly show up, with purpose, passion, and persistence. They need to be there to coach, to counsel, and to collaborate.  

Which can be difficult at times, especially when there are people in your team that are having struggles that affect their work and their focus. And the leader may not be able to understand why those issues are such a big deal. But they are for that person. 

When your team members are struggling, your leadership skills will be on show. And will be tested. Because you need to step into their shoes and demonstrate care factor. And compassion.  

I am going to make a big call in this newsletter and say that if you don’t know how to be compassionate, or are choosing not to be compassionate, you are not being the best leader you can be. Here’s why: 

1. Compassion is misunderstood 

“Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotions researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related.” (Credit: Greatergood.com). 

Compassion is a two-stage process, involving firstly understanding, then secondly acting. There is no compassion without action. You must take an action if you are being compassionate. That action might be as simple as listening. It might be providing compassionate leave, if someone is dealing with loss or grief. It might be making someone a coffee, or it might be driving them to a psychologist.  

As an example, our cat died recently, and for some non-cat lovers, that would not mean much. My wife Julie, though, was shattered. More than shattered. And nearly didn’t go to work for the day (my son took the day off – our cat was beloved). Most people would not be able to understand that. One of Julie’s friends found a photo of our cat (with Julie) and got it put on a key ring, as a reminder. Julie didn’t know about it, and it made her day. That is compassion – action that matters. 

Pro Tip: Don’t assume you know what the person needs you to do, as compassionate action. There are times when you will just have to follow your instincts.  

2. Most people are born compassionate 

In baby studies, compassion shows up at about the eight-month mark. Research with eight-month-old babies showed that when one of them was in distress, the others took action so their mate got help more quickly.  

Babies have been found to cry in response to another newborn baby’s cry, which psychologists agree are early signs of the development of compassion. 

Studies also show that when a baby hears another baby crying, their sucking motion and heart rate slow, as a response to the sound. They have a physical reaction to the distress that they are hearing. This is a natural response. And here is the kicker, studies have found that a small percentage of newborns don’t react like that – which might predict a lack of compassion as the child grows. 

It’s generally thought that compassion proper begins to show itself in the second year of life. But it could be there a lot earlier.  

In other words, the vast majority of humans are born compassionate.  

Pro Tip: If you are a leader, and you are struggling with compassion, that is a nurture thing, not a nature thing – you have either forgotten or chosen not to choose compassion. If you are struggling with it, know that it is a natural skill that you most likely possess, and it just takes a willingness and some of your time to be compassionate.  

3. Compassion is not sympathy 

Compassion is an element of empathy, says Daniel Goleman in his literature around emotional intelligence. And sadly, most people think empathy is sympathy. It means feeling sorry for someone and crying or hurting for them.  

Think of a scale for a minute – with sympathy at one end, and apathy at the other. Both of these are natural emotional states. If someone is in pain, you either feel for them, or you are apathetic (you don’t care at all) – there is very little in between. Either high care factor or low care factor. 

The challenge with compassion (or substitute that with empathy for this section), you need to understand which natural response you have just experienced, and then move from that to understanding (cognitively and emotionally) so that you can be empathetic. Empathy is an action (as above), not a feeling. 

If you are not compassionate and empathetic right now, the good news it is a learnt skill. It is something that you can practice. 

Pro Tip: Prepare for conversations that you might need to have with team members who are hurting. And use words or phrases like, talk me through it, or help me understand, or that must be tough. Please don’t start with I understand, especially if you don’t… 

In summary, you are not leading (and certainly not leading well), if you are not being compassionate when it matters. And it matters. 

Do you agree that compassion is an important leadership skill. 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

UPGRADE your Mindset
UPSKILL your Leadership
UPLIFT your Teams

About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
Work With Anton!

Subscribe to our Newsletter