At Wharton’s graduation ceremony in 2018, Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner shared the advice he would give his 22-year old self: to be compassionate.
He read an excerpt from the book ‘The Art of Happiness’ on the Dalai Lama’s teachings. The Dalai Lama explains, “Picture yourself walking along a mountainous trail. You come across a person being crushed by a boulder on their chest. The empathetic response would be to feel the same sense of crushing suffocation, thus rendering you helpless. The compassionate response would be to recognize that that person is in pain and doing everything within your power to remove the boulder and alleviate their suffering. Put another way, compassion is empathy plus action.”
What makes leaders high in emotional intelligence stand apart is not only empathy, then but also compassion. Regardless of whether they are introverts or extroverts, studies show that in the long run, leaders (and people in general) with compassion have better social skills.What makes leaders high in emotional intelligence stand apart is not only empathy, then but also compassion. Click To Tweet
Daniel Goleman’s article in Harvard Business Review (Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership) emphasises that we gain better leadership skills by understanding the biology of empathy. Leaders with this trait are superior communicators, can observe changes in tone, notice a flicker of disappointment or defense, and have the ability to control their own reactions. Knowing where the other person is coming from enables these leaders to not only maneuver conflicts but connect and articulate. In most circumstances, they come out with a win-win solution, an alternative to a negotiated agreement.
Being a compassionate leader means:
- You are self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. You understand your own feelings and are able to take a step back to recognize when you are angry, irritated, defensive, or depressed. This ability is vital in making long-term decisions instead of hasty ones under short-tempered emotions.
- You are smart enough to self-regulate. In today’s digital world, anything irresponsible, reactive, or combative which may have slipped out of your mouth or onto social media can potentially come back long after, exposing your inability to control your reactions when emotionally challenged. Emotions move us. The word, “emotion,” derived from Latin, literally means “to move.” Self-regulation requires focussing on your values rather than feelings invoked. It’s also the best way to recover from feeling down. Once you have self-regulated, can you go back to attempting to understand other people’s perspectives such as their hopes, fears, and their perception of their own strengths and weaknesses.
- You have developed empathy. Once you are self-aware and are able to self-regulate in heated situations, the ability to empathize is a powerful tool in conflict resolution and will enable you as a leader. Learning to read your peers’ body language can be a real asset. Empower yourself to read other people’s emotions and feelings, their excitements, and disappointments.
With a stronger ability to communicate and assume positive intent, showing appreciation for every effort can change everyone’s mentality. This does not mean to be overly vulnerable or act like a victim, but simply to give the benefit of the doubt. By not just celebrating the big wins, you start influencing, enabling, and empowering the world with this new powerful skill of compassion. Start changing the world around you! Make it a better one with a little compassion.