When a term is coined, there are as many definitions and interpretations as there are people.

Personally I don’t like to give a one sentence description, but more a summary of traits.

For me, a Compassionate Leader is someone:

  • Who knows what compassion is – and is not – and lives accordingly.
  • Who is vulnerable (which is a source of strength to be present with someone).
  • Who knows what their stress factors are and is able to deal with them.
  • Who is open minded.
  • Who is curious about differences and offers a safe space for them to be present.
  • Who balances:
    • Masculine and feminine energy in themselves.
    • Doing and being.
    • Technology/results and humaneness/connections.
    • Down-to-earthness and spirituality.
    • Fun and getting stuff done.
  • Who acts from their own purpose and values and have them aligned with the ones from the organization.
  • Who looks for clarity and the essence, core or root of the matter.
  • Who listens with compassion and speaks from the heart (which doesn’t mean this is soft or fluffy, Compassionate Leaders can be very direct at addressing pain or tension and point people to their responsibility; the difference is that they do this with compassion).

The result is that they experience a lot of freedom in their lives. They are not dependent anymore of other people’s approval. They are free from the opinions and judgments of other people. They are free from patterns that hold them back. They are free from fears.

With ‘free’ I mean: all those elements can still show up, but Compassionate Leaders are not taken hostage by them. Those elements don’t shake up their world. Compassionate Leaders can be present with stressful situations, with people in victim mode and with uncertainty. They are able to deal with them with a compassionate attitude. In this way they provide solutions for themselves, the people they work with and their organizations. They make way for options that nobody thought of before.

By being who they are and by living compassionately, they invite others (unconsciously) to become Compassionate Leaders as well. They inspire by being.

Leading by example can also encompass following the path, making mistakes, admitting them, choosing something else and talking about the whole process. This might even be more powerful and inspirational for other people than someone who is already a full-grown Compassionate Leader. In other words, in my opinion a Compassionate Leader is also someone who hasn’t ticked all the boxes yet, but has the heart-felt desire to follow this path and become a genuine Compassionate Leader.

Feel free to add your own definition below or provide some suggestions regarding extra characteristics.

If you are interested in Compassionate Leadership, then download the free New Guide for Business Owners & Managers to Increase Ownership without Worrying about Results, the free e-book “5 Most Overlooked Dynamics that Impact Agile, Self-Organizing and Traditional Teams” or join the free Compassionate Leader Community.