Compassion – The Fourth C of Leadership

Mark Twain once said,

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

The best leaders help others become great by coaching, mentoring, and investing in others’ lives.  Their goal is to empower others to achieve their full potential, thereby developing the next generation of leaders.

The Inta-Greated Leadership ModelBefore one can go about coaching and developing greatness in others, however, it is important that those people feel that the leader cares about them.  For, it has also been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  We are all more open to being coached and receiving advice when we trust that the person coaching us and offering us advice has our best interests at heart.  Otherwise, our natural tendency is to become defensive and offended.  That is why the fourth C of leadership is Compassion.  A leader must be motivated by love and compassion to serve and empower his or her people.           

Kouzes and Posner (2006) refer to it as “Enable Others to Act,” and describe it as infusing “people with energy and confidence” and ensuring that “people feel strong and capable” (p. 6).  In striving to do so, emotional intelligence plays a key role.

Emotional Intelligence expert, Daniel Goleman (2001) writes, “What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones?  It isn’t IQ or technical skills.  It’s Emotional Intelligence: a group of five skills that enable the best leaders to maximize their own and their followers’ performance” (p. 1).  Emotional Intelligence does this by helping leaders understand that everyone is unique – everyone has his or her own combination of personality style, strengths, weaknesses, and motivators – therefore, not everyone can be coached or developed the same way.  [Which connects us back to our first C, Composition.]

The call to coach and develop others is also prominent in the transformational and servant leadership theories.  Individualized consideration is the fourth factor of transformational leadership.  It consists of “…focusing on the development and mentoring of individual followers and attending to their specific needs” (Powell, 2011, p. 5), and “…trying to assist followers in becoming fully actualized” (Northouse, 2010, p. 179).

In regard to servant leadership, many of Spears’ (2002) ten characteristics of the servant-leader focus on coaching and mentoring others.  Those factors include: (a) empathy, accepting and recognizing others for their unique gifts; (b) healing, the calling to “help make whole” those they lead (p. 5); (c) stewardship, “a commitment to serving the needs of others” (p. 7); and finally (d) commitment to the growth of people, the leader’s responsibility to nurture the personal and professional growth of his or her employees.

Finally, it should be noted that leaders must not only coach, mentor, and empower others, but also personally be coached, mentored, and empowered.  There is a need for leaders to seek counsel, so that they can be continually growing and developing.  It is only after one has personally wrestled with tough questions, decisions, and experiences that one can lead others down that same path.  As Manz (2001) puts it, leaders must “…serve as an example of someone who has sincerely struggled with being personally effective and found his or her own way.  Then, as a result, [leaders] are in a better position to help others find their own way as well” (p. 15).

Once again, however, a leader cannot stop here.  In addition to equipping people to achieve the vision through Compassion, leaders must also utilize the fifth C, Communication, in order to cast the vision and inspire others to action.

[As was discussed in a previous blog post, here at Inta-Great, we define leadership as “a service-oriented relationship by which change occurs as a leader influences others toward a common vision.”  In order to be effective at influencing others in the pursuit of that vision, we propose that leaders follow the Inta-Greated Leadership Model which consists of the “Seven Cs of Leadership:” (1) Composition; (2) Character; (3) Catalyst; (4) Compassion; (5) Communication; (6) Courage; and (7) Celebration.  Embodying the Seven Cs is what allows leaders to have an impact at the personal, team, and organizational levels and ultimately results in real transformation and sustainable results.]

Referenced Works:

  • Goleman, D. (2001). What makes a leader? In J.S. Osland, D.A. Kolb, & I.M. Rubin (Eds.), The organizational behavior reader (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2003). Student leadership practices inventory.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  • Manz, C. (2001). The leadership wisdom of Jesus. San Francisco: Brett-Koehler.
  • Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Powell, G. N. (2011).  The gender and leadership wars.  Organizational Dynamics, 40, 1-9.
  • Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. In L. C. Spears, & M. Lawrence. (Eds.), Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. (pp. 1-16). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

What Makes a Leader?

In his research at nearly 200 large, global companies, Daniel Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.  These qualities may sound “soft” and unbusinesslike, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results.

Hence, Daniel Goleman’s famous quote, ‎”IQ and technical skills are important, but emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership.”  Here’s an overview of his classic article, “What Makes a Leader?”