True leaders must be compassionate. They must understand the needs of their employees and their customers. Compassion and empathy are the new barometer with which we measure the effectiveness of today’s leader. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said it best: “Our core business is connected with a customer’s needs, and we will not be able to satisfy them if we don’t have a deep sense of empathy.”
In his book, The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results, author Donato Tramuto wrote:
“Compassionate leadership is driven by a desire and a commitment to better your people, your customers, your stakeholders, and your community. It’s about understanding what touches the hearts of others in order to bring out the best in them and allow them to feel connected to their work and see it as part of something bigger than themselves.”
But let’s not mistake compassion for weakness as some of you are already doing. Think about this: Where do the old ways of yelling and screaming fit in today? Do you really think you can get away with what our old bosses used to do in those proverbial good old days?
When I started in this business, I grew accustomed to bosses yelling descriptive and colorful things they would do to us if we screwed up. Many of those had to do with keeping our rear end from burning, or chewing it out and giving us a new one. That might have worked then but it certainly would not work now. It would get you fired.
But enough of that; let’s move on to the present day, thankfully.
Here is another pertinent thought from Tramuto:
“Some people think that a compassionate leader is a weak leader, or that compassionate leadership is not strong, powerful or results oriented. That could not be further from the truth. Once you understand compassionate leadership and understand how it’s applied, you’ll see it in it’s true light…You’ll understand that by the very definition of the term, compassionate leaders are necessarily strong and tough leaders. Compassion isn’t weak; it’s the power skill for the next generation.”
Being a compassionate leader does not mean being soft. It does not mean being wishy washy, namby pamby. Not at all. What it does mean is having a good and accurate understanding of what your people need to be successful and what your customers need to be satisfied—which is what a successful business is all about.
First, the secret to being a great leader and a great manager (they are not always synonymous) is understanding what motivates your people to do their best work. Help them feel that by combining what they do best and what makes their heart sing is what they need to be successful. That is the sign of a true leader.
A compassionate leader teaches, guides, mentors, and shares to find ways to motivate her people so they will walk to the ends of the earth to be successful by doing their best for their customers, for their leaders, and of course, for themselves. Now if that is not a win-win, nothing is.
Being a compassionate vendor to our customers is the most important sales tactic we can use. To be compassionate to our customers we must, as they used to say, “walk a mile in his shoes.” That is the only way to get a true understanding of your customers’ needs to be successful. It’s what your customer needs to make her life better and to stay around to buy from you for another day, month, year, and even decades.
By being compassionate about your customer you develop all the right customer service habits, as well as the right products and technologies to service that customer better than anyone else will ever be able to do.
One of the things I have always believed is that everything starts with a company’s leader. He sets the tone for everything the company does, good or bad. If the leader of a company sits in a meeting, badmouthing customers to the rest of the organization, she is creating a virtual cancer for that company in the way they look at their customers.
On the other hand, if she talks about her customers with compassion, everyone else in the meeting (and hopefully, in turn, the rest of the company) will start treating their customers the same way.
Someone once told me that, in terms of the employees, a leader does not speak in a normal voice, rather his voice is amplified at least 10 times by the very fact that he is the leader. Think about that. Whatever a leader says is considered 10 times louder and more meaningful than what anyone else in the company says. Talk about a serious responsibility.
That being that case, it is that much more important for that leader to be truly compassionate.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.