The Compassionate Leader

Yes leaders, true leaders, have to be compassionate. They need to understand the needs of their people and they have to understand the needs of their customers.

Compassion and empathy are the new barometer with which we measure the effectiveness of today’s leader. No less a leader than Satya Nadella of Microsoft said it best when he said, “our core business is connected with customer’s needs, and we will not be able to satisfy them if we don’t have a deep sense of empathy.”

From the book The Double Bottom Line: How compassionate leaders captivate hearts and deliver results, by Donato Tramuto.

Compassionate leadership is driven by a desire and a commitment to better your people, your customers, your stakeholders, and your community. It’s about understanding what touches the hearts of others in order to bring out the best in them and allow them to feel connected to their work and see it as part of something bigger than themselves.

But let’s not mistake compassion for weakness as I am sure some of you are already doing. Think about this, where do the old ways of yelling and screaming fit in today? Do you really think you can get away with what our old bosses used to in those “proverbial good old days”?

When I started in this business, I was used to bosses yelling descriptive and colorful things they were going to do to us if we screwed up. That might have worked then but it certainly would not work now. It would get you fired.

But enough of that, let’s move on to the present day, thankfully.

Again, from the book:

Some people think that a compassionate leader is a  weak leader, or that compassionate leadership is not strong, powerful or results oriented. That could not be further from the truth. Once you understand compassionate leadership and understand how it’s applied you’ll see it in its true light…You’ll understand that by the very definition of the term, compassionate leaders are necessarily strong, and tough leaders. Compassion isn’t weak; it’s the power skill for the next generation.

Being a compassionate leader does not mean being soft. It does not mean being wishy washy, mamby pamby. Not at all. What it does mean is having a good and accurate understanding of what you people need to be successful and also what your customers need to be satisfied. Which in the end is what a successful business is all about.

First of all, the secret to being a great leader and a great manager (they are not always synonymous) is understanding what motivates your people to do their best work. To make them feel that by combining what they do best, what makes their heart sing with what they need to do to be successful is the sign of a true leader.

A compassionate leader teaches, guides, mentors, and shares to find ways to motivate her people to the point that they will walk to the ends of the earth to be successful by doing their best for their customers, for their leaders, and yes of course in the end for themselves. Now if that is not a win-win nothing is.

Being a compassionate vendor to our customers is the most important sales tactic we can use. To be compassionate to our customers we have to … as they used to say, “walk a mile in his shoes” That is the only way to get a true understanding of your customers’ needs to be successful. What your customer needs to make her life better and what your customer needs to stay around to buy from you for another day, month, years and even decades.

By being compassionate about your customer you develop all of the right customer service habits, as well as the right products, and technologies to service that customer better than any one else will ever be able to do.

One of the things I have always believed is that everything starts with a company’s leader. He sets the tone for everything the company does, good or bad. If the leader of a company sits in a meeting bad mouthing customers to the rest of the organization she is creating a virtual cancer for that company in the way they are going to look at their customers.

On the other hand, if she talks about her customers with compassion, the rest of the people in that meeting then in turn the rest of the company will start treating their customers the same way.

Someone told me once that a leader in terms of the employees does not speak in a normal voice, rather his voice is amplified at least ten times by the very fact that he is the leader. Think about that. Whatever a leader says is considered ten times louder and ten times more meaningful than what anyone else in the company says. Talk about a serious responsibility!

That being that case it is that much more important for that leader to be a truly compassionate leader. It’s only common sense.