We recently discussed that compassion can involve challenging others to attain high-quality results on projects that stretch them. Compassion is also a compelling conviction to care enough to become involved and help others by taking some action that will improve their lives or set them on a fresh course. Effective leaders act spontaneously with a true heart of compassion, caring for the person regardless of the consequences.
So what does that look like?
I observed a great instance of this very thing with a client. I was preparing for a webcast. While setting up the presentation, the IT expert helping set up the equipment and handling the technical details received a telephone call from one of his employees who was troubleshooting at another location. I learned that this employee was working on a crisis situation of great importance to her company.
Hearing just half of his conversation, I picked up that she was reporting on her progress in solving the problem. Later, when my technical helper gave me the details of the conversation, I learned that almost in passing she mentioned, “I have to check on my father. I think he had a heart attack or stroke or something.”
The man interrupted the conversation right then and said bluntly, “You need to go to your father.” He didn’t even ask, “Do you need to go to your father?” He just said, “You need to go to your father.”
The employee protested, “No, I’m not going to go until this is fixed.” Her boss just kept saying, “Get off the phone, get on a plane, and go to your father.”
I knew that this man might get into trouble for making that kind of decision; his employee was trying to solve a serious problem. But he insisted, and she went home.
I reached several conclusions from this leader’s act of spontaneous compassion: First, this woman will be one of his most loyal and productive employees from now on. Second, he did the right thing even though painful consequences might follow. A trusted leader acts like that. Finally, he showed a true heart of compassion. He decided to care for the person. In that moment when he had to make a choice, he understood and responded to the needs of the person, not just a valued cog in the company machine.
That’s what compassion is all about.