How to be a compassionate leader

by Stephen Conmy on Jun 3, 2022

Full name

Shaun Adams

Job Title

Leadership consultant and founder

Company Name

Irish Centre for Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassion Connects

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In a world trying to emerge from a pandemic, with war back in Europe threatening global stability and with recession and climate change making life unbearable for billions, our shared planet does not appear to be a compassionate place. This is why compassionate leadership is needed more than ever before. But what makes a compassionate leader? 

In this interview with Stephen Conmy, Shaun Adams, the compassionate leadership consultant at the Irish Centre for Compassion Focused Therapy and founder of Compassion Connects, explains more. 

Key points of discussion

  • Boards are custodians, they are there to both serve and lead
  • Compassion is sensitivity toward suffering and a commitment to alleviate that suffering or prevent it from occurring
  • Being kind or nice is not being a compassionate leader, they may be means of showing compassion but compassion is the ability to ‘suffer with’ people
  • Attributes like emotional intelligence (EQ), self-awareness and mindfulness are essential to strong leadership … and so is compassion
  • Compassion is the opposite of indifference, and it is one of the essential qualities that determine if you are a decent human being
  • By the application of compassion in a measured, scientific way, leaders can optimise their team’s abilities, their decision making, and their creativity
  • The ex-CEO of LinkedIn Jeff Weiner describes himself as a compassionate leader and a practitioner of compassionate management and he has studied the science of compassion, he’s not just talking about being kind or gentle
  • One of Google’s recent internal studies – Project Aristotle – wanted to find out what makes a great team and the results show the importance of compassion and trust, vital human qualities
  • One of the key reasons for the ‘great resignation’ is that the always-on Zoom meeting culture in many companies has generated cultures of micromanagement – which is the opposite of compassionate management 
  • The ability to demonstrate trust and compassion separates great leaders from just managers 
  • The current rise of ESG is hugely influenced by the emergence of compassionate leadership 

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