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How To Be A More Compassionate Leader (And Why It’s So Important)

Source | | Dede Henley

Several years ago, I was working with a team at a healthcare company, and one of its more senior members made an instant impression with me — only it wasn’t in such a great way. She always seemed like she was trying to prove how smart she was, how capable and “in the know” she was. She used charm to get what she wanted but also created a culture of competition, arguing, defensiveness and bullying. Mostly, I found her arrogant and annoying. I had little compassion for her and avoided her as much as I could.

But the leader she reported to, my client, saw something more. He felt devoted to her in a way he couldn’t really explain.

One day, he hosted a team retreat and with my facilitation, invited each team member to share about their lives growing up. When it was this team member’s turn, she told the group about how she was sent to boarding school at age six. As a mother (and as someone who didn’t grow up in a world where boarding school was a common thing), imagining this little girl without her mother or father in her daily comings and goings at such a young age was heart-wrenching.

She went on, sharing how she had to learn to take care of herself. She knew that on some level she was on her own. She’d also developed what she called a “winning formula” for getting through life: She’d figured out that she could get what she wanted and needed by being charming.

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