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Mindful Leadership

To Be Compassionate Is to Be a Strong and Courageous Leader

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Compassion is rarely truly understood. It’s often seen as weakness, something like a bleeding heart. And because it may be seen as a weakness, it is considered by some to have no place in leadership. But, in fact, this could not be further from the truth.

It takes great strength and courage to be compassionate.  True compassion is deep caring without attachment. This is not the same as deep caring with detachment, which would imply an arm’s-length relationship that does not touch you, where you could not feel the pain or get hurt in the process of caring. Rather, I am talking about caring deeply but not being attached to the outcome.

Consider for a moment how difficult that actually is. You care deeply about a person, circumstance, situation, business, or cause, but you are not attached to the outcome of your intervention or the outcome of what occurs. That is true compassion.  There is real wisdom in this. And you always want the appropriate blend of wisdom and compassion. Not enough wisdom and you risk being a bleeding heart. Not enough compassion and you risk being cruel.

Let me illustrate. You have been mentoring an individual and you care about them and very much want them to succeed. You spend time with them, helping them in particular with political issues and how to position themselves and their work. Your priority and energy goes to enabling them.  But you are very aware that the outcome, i.e. their success, is not in your hands and you completely accept that with equanimity.

In another instance, you are fundraising for a particular cause that you think is worthy of your support. You do your very best to raise awareness and the funds required to launch significant initiatives. You work diligently without attachment to whether your efforts succeed or don’t succeed. This is possible because you know that ultimately you do not control the end result. You can influence people but you can’t force them
to donate. The key in not being attached is equanimity. And this is possible because your ego is not intertwined in any success or failure. You do your best, under the circumstances, and you let the results take care of themselves.

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