Compassion is like a Marathon!

Compassion is like a Marathon!

Cultivating compassion is like running a marathon it requires daily practice over a period of time, like running your first marathon with training you can build the skills!

 Now more than ever, it’s imperative for leaders to demonstrate compassionCompassion is the quality of having positive intentions and real concern for others. Compassion in leadership creates stronger connections between people.  It improves collaboration, creativity which leads to innovation, raises levels of trust, and enhances loyalty in employees.

Jacinda Ardern New Zealand’s Prime Minister, leadership style is characterised by kindness and compassion for her response to the Christchurch shootings in 2019.  Her compassionate leadership style united a country in mourning for their fellow New Zealanders.  Whom lost their lives while at prayer in a place of worship in a country they chose as their home because it was safe.  In the days following Jacinda Ardern took action to correct laws to protect its people and embrace those mourning loved ones at the scene of the terrorist attack.

Leading German social neuroscientist, psychologist and author of Caring Economics Tania Singer – conversations on altruism and compassion, between scientists, economists and the Dalai Lama.  Delivers some key research into compassion based on studies with over 300 participants who participated in gratitude based, attention based study into the affect on wellbeing of people.

Below are my personal insights from this study.

#1 Compassion is trainable:

Compassion is trainable with daily practice according to Tania Singer,  after a study on the impact of mental training involving a combination of mindfulness, perspective-taking and compassion exercises.

#2 Empathy and Compassion go hand in hand:

Different brain circulatory – Empathy activates the pain network and negative affect; and transforms into compassion when the affiliative part of the brain is activated which has a positive affect.

Empathy feeling with others, empathy is connecting with the other person in how they feel.

Compassion feeling for someone at the heart level – you start feeling concern, for the welfare of the other.

Most resilient is compassion, a feeling of care and love.  You feel this warmth, altruistic strong motivation. I want to help you.  Altruism is a higher order need in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivational Theory.

#3 Compassion is a positive feeling towards the other:

Sometimes we judge others without awareness. Compassion is a positive feeling towards the other.   Compassion is when we are present and listen without judgment it brings down social stress (fear of being judged) for the other person, which makes them feel safe to open up and share their problems.

# 4 Compassion and perspective:

Cognitively when we identify that the person, we are listening to has different beliefs to our own, understanding the other person is not always easy for us to grasp – particularly in cross cultural contexts. An understanding and appreciation of different perspectives, diversity has the power to facilitate kindness and compassion in our workplaces, communities and strengthen global co-operation.

# 5 Compassion and Gratitude:

A daily Gratitude practice can build compassion at the heart level.  Appreciating and accepting that many leaders are at different stage of the compassion continuum is important, it’s a journey, having conversations about compassion takes courage, takes vulnerability.

I attended an inspirational Podcast this week with Rebecca Jarvis who eloquently interviewed the very inspiring Steve Farrugia CEO of the Share Tree – which is a good place for leaders to start in exploring how to implement daily practice of gratitude and compassion in organisations using an App!

# 6 Compassion is a key change management skill:

Compassion is passion, the direction of positive energy used to advocate for a cause, purpose, passion.  Having a compassionate leadership style can help advocate and facilitate a positive change management process within an organisation.

Top 3 actions to cultivate a culture of compassion within an organisation:

  1. Hire leaders who want to take care of others:
    Hiring leaders who want to take care of others. There is a great tool called the VIA – strengths survey which identifies 24-character strengths of leaders, for example those that display gratitude and love.


Hiring managers with an affiliative leadership style – are managers who know the importance of building social capital and will take time to listen to their people and will implement change seamlessly.

  1. Get the support of your CEO:

When CEO’s and Human Resources work together to build a culture of compassion it builds bonds, social connectedness, affiliation, sense of mutual appreciation, collaboration, innovation and a culture of high performance.

  1. Adopt a holistic approach:

A holistic approach, considers people’s physical, mental and emotional health.  A compassionate leadership style and holistic approach can transform toxic cultures that are faced with ethical dilemmas, bullying and harassment into healthy workplaces where people feel safe and thrive. Putting people first and placing importance on people’s physical, mental and emotional health, will have a triple bottom line impact towards wellbeing, higher performance and improved shareholder value.

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