Article: Compassion based leadership


Compassion based leadership

In this article I would like to share 4 aspects of such emotions: Pity, Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion. Let’s read a story to understand these terms better.
Compassion based leadership

Words like compassion, empathy, care, humility etc. have not received so much attention before like they have gained momentum in the last two years – Two years which are years of change, years of uncertainty, years of anxiety and hence the years of compassion, love, care and empathy! Yes, I am talking about ‘The Years of COVID’. 

We all have experienced this tiny virus in one or the other way in our lives in the last 2 years. It has brought an enormous amount of fear, grief, anxiety and uncertainty in people’s lives that no one remains untouched. People around were forced to assess their real selves and experience the dark sides of emotions. At these gloomy moments, the role of leaders / mentors become more significant than ever before to transform and help control these emotions. For self and also for people around. And that’s possible only with Compassion, Humility, Empathy and Care! 

In this article I would like to share 4 aspects of such emotions: Pity, Sympathy, Empathy and Compassion. Let’s read a story to understand these terms better. 

Amber (A), Badal (B), Chandra (C) and Dhruv (D) are 4 friends who completed their MBA from IIN Behmabadad and joined 4 different multinational companies across India. Amber is posted in Mumbai, Badal in Pune, Chandra in Bangalore whereas Dhruv in Hyderabad. After graduation they join their respective companies in May 2020 and pandemic has just hit. So, all of them are working from home in their respective cities. 

Today is Dec 2020 and they completed 6 months of their corporate career. They decide to have a quick video call and chit-chat on how things are going on. 

MS Teams Call – Calling A, B , C and D

Hey Hi Amber, Badal and Chandra. How are you guys? 

We are good. How are you Dhruv? A, B and C reply in unison.

I am a good Man. Tired in this WFH set-up. What about you guys? How are things back at home?

After a little chit-chat and reminiscing about the good old MBA days, A asks: tell me one thing guys. How is your manager? Especially in this WFH structure. 

B jumps in. Let me share my story folks. My manager lives in Mumbai and I am in Pune. So, we don’t get to meet F2F at all. 2 months back I was having a tough time with my personal life as Nisha (her girlfriend) was down with COVID. I was unable to handle work pressure and Nisha’s care together, so thought of having a conversation with my manager. I called him and shared my personal problems. After a long 20 minutes explanation, guess what I heard from him? “I feel sorry for you Badal. Work can’t be hampered because of this. I suggest you manage your personal problems and focus on work. There is someone to take care of your girlfriend”. And I was astounded. It was that day and it is today, I never shared any problems of mine with him. Also, I am looking for a change. Let me know if any good opportunities come across. 

This is really bad. Not expected from a manager, A explains. I experienced something similar but not this bad. As you all are aware that I was down with COVID last month so I asked my manager for help and support. She was kind enough to ask about my health and all, but never did I hear a word of support from her. She was always like – “I feel for you.” But she was not as rude as yours Badal, pulling his leg…and all burst into a laugh :D

D intervenes. Guys in that sense perhaps I am very lucky to have a great boss. She always understands my problems and gives me freedom to work as per my convenience. There is no 9-6 kind of schedule. She realizes the problems around and empathizes with that. Many times I feel she understands my pain as well. And that is great. But sometimes I sense a drawback of this as well. Often she gets caught in this emotion and is not able to make quick decisions as well. It happened once or twice, but it happened. 

C was listening to all these stories patiently and after a pause of 10 seconds he opines: Guys I think I should thank my stars for having such a compassionate and understanding manager. Last 4 months have been very challenging for me. You guys are aware of my mom dad suffering from Covid in the US and my brother facing so many challenges moving them back to India because of multiple restrictions. It was a horrible time for me. 

I shared all the events with my manager from time to time and not only did he share concern for these, also stepped forward to help me with my problems. I think I would not be able to pay his debt even when he used his contacts in the Indian Embassy to help my parents fly from the US to India. I find him an authentic leader who is there to support the team in their ups and downs. Like a wall you can speak with and share all your concerns. Many times I just shared my worries and he was patient enough just to listen to it. That’s it. And it was enough for me. Frankly that time I just wanted a listening ear. And I know he is there for me. 

All these discussions surely made me reflect today and I am surely gonna send a Thank You message to him before we go to sleep. He would think I am drunk and hence this message….And all of them burst into laughs again….

As soon as the laughs end, A shouts: Guys let’s get your glasses of single malt and cheer for our friendship! Cheers…

Things to ponder

Starting with B: B’s manager showed Pity towards B which means “I feel sorry for you”. In emotional turmoil this style of leadership won’t help and you might lose a good talent from your team if you only show pity towards them.

A’s manager shows sympathy which means “I feel for you”. Sometimes this might work but most of the time a trust is not created on the basis of sympathy. People might start judging you as a fake empathizer and this can derail the team dynamics.

D’s manager showed empathy in the interactions which means “ I feel for you”. Empathy is important but many times leaders get stuck in the trap of empathy and unable to make decisions. Just ensure when you are mirroring the emotions of someone you are also mindful of the fact that it is not blinding you completely.

Now C’s manager is a classic example of compassion led leadership “I am here to help”. This goes one level up of Empathy when you understand people’s problems and don’t stop there. But you try your best to support the individual. You act as a helping hand in people’s tough times. People appreciate such kind of authentic leadership where they receive support and help from leaders in their tough times. 

Leaving this article with a last thought. Which kind of emotion do you exhibit with your team? 

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Topics: Leadership, #GuestArticle

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