Leadership Pro Tip: Don’t Compromise on Compassion or Performance

Making room for compassion-led performance that also focuses on results could create a stronger net result for your organization—and your team.

Maximize performance, or prioritize compassion?

When it comes to leadership, it might feel like you have to choose one or the other. But what if you find a way to leverage both approaches in your leadership strategy?

What’s the Strategy?

There’s growing evidence that combining the two approaches into one leadership ethos could be pretty effective, and that data can drive that merger of goals. A recent Harvard Business Review piece argued for a combination of compassion-led and performance-driven leadership, which can create a stronger result.

As authors Mark Mortensen (an associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD business school) and Heidi K. Gardner (a distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School) explain, compassion needs to start with data, which can lead to the right path.

“Leaders need to collect data on what employees really care about rather than assuming they already understand,” they wrote. “For example, we’ve heard too many stories of senior leaders failing to appreciate the difference between their comparatively luxurious pandemic work-from-home experiences and their employees’ less-than-ideal experiences. The goal is to get the real story.”

Why Is It Effective?

Speaking of data, a recent Potential Project study [PDF] highlights the promise of this approach for associations. It found that organizations whose leaders combined compassionate and wise leadership tactics did significantly better than those who simply leaned on one or the other.

The study found that job satisfaction with a compassionate and wise leader rose to 86 percent, roughly 2.5 times the total of leaders who were either wise or compassionate. The study also found lower levels of burnout, higher job performance, and stronger career engagement overall.

What’s the Potential?

The potential of a happier, more productive organization is easier said than done, as Inc. contributor Jessica Stillman noted—but the fact of the matter is, a compassion-driven approach is important as a way to keep the troops rallied so that they are in a position to execute.

“They might need to make tough choices, but they never let that reality desensitize them to the human impacts of those choices nor distract them from carrying out those tough choices in the most humane way possible,” she wrote.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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