Knowledge and Compassion – a Dynamic Combination in Leadership

It takes courage and stamina to lead. There are tough decisions to make that sometimes may be harsh or seem that way and it is difficult to balance those decisions with being a compassionate and caring individual.

It is not a choice though – you can be both someone who can make the right, tough decisions while still acting and behaving in a compassionate way. In truth, doing hard things is often the most human thing to do. There are two key ingredients knowledge and compassion.

Knowledge in this context is defined as a deep understanding of what motivates people and the courage to be transparent and to do what needs to be done, even when it is uncomfortable. Compassion is the quality of showing genuine care and concern for others, with a positive intention to support and help.

Businesses with leaders who show the power of knowledge and compassion motivate their people. These people enjoy and are engaged with their jobs and are less likely to burn out. When a leader demonstrates both knowledge and compassion, the impact on employee wellness and productivity is striking. Job satisfaction is 86% higher for an employee who works for a smart and compassionate leader than an employee who does not. In this case, the sum is much greater than the parts.

It isn’t easy to master this dynamic leadership combination however, it takes learning and practice. The first big step is to re-evaluate what you might think “leadership” means.

Simply put, management is about managing others, about exercising executive control over people. Leadership, on the other hand, is about seeing and hearing.

Here are four ways to bring the ‘human element’ to your leadership.

Know what matters 

‘’Do unto others as you would have others do unto you’’. This is the Golden Rule is a helpful step for putting wise compassion in action because thinking this way requires you to consider another person’s point of view. When we are able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we can take a fresh look at a challenging situation. We can take a moment to recognise that we have one view of the situation, but things may, and probably do, look very different from another person’s perspective. Don’t assume their reality – work at understanding how they feel, which requires asking the right questions and crucially, good listening skills.

Listen actively 

We have two ears but only one mouth. This means we can—and should—listen twice as much as we speak. When you truly listen to others, they feel heard and seen, which satisfies one of our primary needs as humans. If you can listen actively, with an open mind and a willingness to learn, not only will you become wiser, but you can genuinely help others. If you have an important conversation coming up, take extra time to prepare. This can mean establishing the right kind of environment so that you can be fully present or setting an intention to really hear and feel what the other person wants and feels versus focusing on fixing a problem.

Ask how can I help this person?  

A Chinese proverb says, “There is no way to compassion; compassion is the way.” Asking how you can be of benefit to others, though, is a “way to compassion.” Whenever you are about to engage with someone, take a moment to reflect on what might be going on for this person. What is challenging or going well? And then ask yourself: what support can I offer to help them overcome their challenges? Reflecting on these questions before you meet people will help to create a more human interaction focused on their growth and development.

Ensure that you stretch people to see their potential  

This is not easy. When someone is already doing well, pushing them to do better can be discouraging and demotivating. But leadership is not about trying to please people and make them feel content and at ease. Leadership is about supporting people by shining a light on things they may not want to face. Instead of shying away from these uncomfortable conversations, try to view your role to stretch people as an indication of true care for them.

If you need support with your leadership skills, get in touch with us at or call us on 01162325231 for a free/ no obligation discussion.

The Tinderbox Team