June 13, 2022

Compassionate Leadership – Sridevi Dutta

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Rosa Parks

On a cold December evening, in the year 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress refused to give her seat to a White man. Rosa Parks had at that moment reached the threshold of all humiliation. Even as Ms Parks defiantly sat on her seat, the Racial Segregation Ordinances hovered large and life like over millions of African Americans, who with their dignity fractured continued to lead a life of compromise and fear. Rosa Parks, with her singular act of disobedience paved way for freedom and sparked hope in the hearts of the oppressed African Americans.

What makes Rosa Parks such a powerful leader?

  • Parks’ leading mantra was influence and not authority. She understood the pulse of her people. Her purpose lay in bettering the lives of the people she led.
  • Rosa Parks inspired passion and determination in her people. They understood how important it was to challenge the status quo at every step.
  • Selflessness was a large part of Parks’ inner narrative. Pessimism had no role in her scheme of things. This kept the morality of her followers high.

Business and Compassion

According to Monica Worline, the author of, “Awakening Compassion At Work”, compassion is a three step process

  • Notice that suffering is present in our lives and in the organization around us.
  • Interpret that suffering in a way that enables us to feel empathy and concern for what’s happening.
  • Take action to do something about the suffering.

How does compassion affect business?

A business which actively practices compassion as its core value achieves higher employee engagement and lower employee turnover.

Engaged employees are able to connect with clients and customers at a more emotional level. This improves the human quotient of business.

Employees in organizations that practice compassion are more resilient. Thus, they are able to adapt more quickly to change in market conditions and bounce back after an economic downturn.

Compassion as a part of the corporate narrative: Reflect and Introspect

I do not ask the wounded person how he feels; I myself become the wounded person.

Walt Whitman

Many business leaders brought about sweeping changes  by consciously embracing compassion. Empathy for them was not an accident but a way of life. Do we go beyond the rational, the logic and reason?

  • Do we share our stories with courage and authenticity ?
  • Do we encourage mindfulness? Do we encourage ourselves to stand back and observe what makes us angry, sad and joyful?
  • Do we celebrate little moments of victory that are personal, intimate and mean a lot to the employee? Or do we focus only on the goals of the organization?
  • Laughter is the best medicine. That said, laughter driven by insult is counterproductive to the morale of the individual and wellness of the organization. Does the occasional laugh or guffaw that echoes through your corridors full of humour and joy?
  • Is the talent in your organization exposed to opportunity?
  • How often do we link compassion with business performance and customer satisfaction?

As Dalai Lama very eloquently puts it, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

With compassion, you not only make a powerful beginning but also leave behind footprints in the world of business and sustainable living.

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