The 3 Pillars of Leading with Compassion

Compassion is a critical skill for leaders worldwide. While intuitively many would agree, there’s also ample scientific evidence. Modern studies demonstrate just how crucial compassion is to strong leadership.

For example, researchers from the Australian School of Business conducted a leadership study with over 5,600 participants from 77 different organizations. They found that compassionate leaders consistently boosted employee productivity, employee morale and bottom-line profitability. They also found that “low-level” managers, the managers who interact with employees on a day-to-day basis, make a bigger impact than the CEO.

Compassion is a key piece of effective leadership…so how do you become a compassionate leader? A leader that inspires action and respect? According to Thupten Jinpa, a well-respected scholar and the Dalai Lama’s longtime English translator, there are three core pillars.

1. Cognitive Understanding

In order to lead, you need to conceptually understand the problems, situations and decisions your peers and employees are facing. People around you want to know that you “get” their challenges. You know the facts. Without a solid cognitive understanding of what’s going on, followers won’t be able to connect with you about their projects and problems.

2. Affective (Emotional) Understanding

Yet, facts alone aren’t enough. The people you lead also want to know that you feel what they feel. That you understand them on an emotional level.

Does your team feel stressed out? Are they excited about the projects they’re working on? Do they feel like they’re growing professionally, or are they feeling bored with their work?

Understanding how your team feels doesn’t necessarily mean circumstances have to change. It’s okay to be stressed temporarily if it’s in service of a greater goal that everyone’s committed to. Your team just wants to know that you understand.

3. Motivational Connection

Finally, the people on your team want to know that you want them to succeed. You’ve got their back. Their professional and personal development is part of your agenda. Knowing that you have their best interests at heart is a key motivating piece.

The main idea behind all three concepts is the switch in mindset from “me” to “we.” It’s no longer about the individual, but about the team as a whole. Embracing each of these three pillars will help your team create that sense of unity. Adopting these principles will help you bring people together to go further as a team than an individual can go on their own.