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Compassionate Leadership


As a leader, it is super easy to get so focused on the mission and vision, that you forget about the people. Forget that the people who work with you have their own individual purpose, goals, interests, and souls. It is easy to forget that they are working WITH you to get to the mission and that it takes them time to incorporate the vision into their lives and being because…well, it's your vision…not theirs. And, because it's your vision, you can see….and you can walk towards it…and you can lead them. And until they can see the vision, they will always follow you…and once they see it, then they can walk towards it, more independently and with more awareness of things that may help the mission, if you give them a chance.


But where I am going here, is that as leaders, we have to SEE our people. We have to see that, while they come to our offices, virtual spaces, or remote assignments, they are full people that had a range of positive and negative experiences before we met them and before we had the opportunity to work with and lead them.


I love the quote that says, “Most people want to be heard for what they said, but also heard for what they didn’t say, what they wanted to say, and what they meant to say.” - Unknown. And the same can be true for “seen” instead of “heard.” Most people want to be seen for who they are; the things you easily see in them, but also, the things that require you to take off your glasses, rub your eyes, squint a bit, and then put your glasses back on to notice. Most people, even those who agree with your mission and vision, want you to see them and believe in them.


For years, I’ve had moments of recall in which I remembered an article by the CEO of LinkedIn. He coined it, Compassionate Leadership. And in it, he made reference to the fact that compassion means doing what is right for the staff member…not just what’s right for the leader. This includes hiring and firing.


Within those same years, I’ve been tested by my team: new, old, and former. I’ve had to make compassionate decisions from questions like: Is this the best fit company for this person? Is this the best fit assignment for this person? Is this an opportunity that will challenge the person…to a degree that she can handle it or to a degree that will burn her out? What are her other life goals and does this fit in it or deter her from it? Where is she with her own mental health and is this job contributing to harm, help, or health?

And in difficult moments, when someone has lied to me and attempted to deceive me, I’ve had to make decisions related to questions such as: What motivated the person? What caused the lie? Is this directed to me because of me or is this directed to me because of past harm the person has experienced? Is this directed to me because of me or is this directed to me because our society has not found the best ways to support the intersection of occupation/employment and Black Women’s identities? Should this lie/deception lead to termination, an improvement plan, a conversation, or none of the above? Should I let my Director handle this so she can learn or should I do it so I can learn, practice, and execute?


See, when leading with compassion, there are so many questions that need to be asked, to the person but mostly to self…and there are so many answers that can be provided….from the person, from self, or from Spirit.


And, while I know that I don’t have all the answers and I may not have all the time, I do know that I want to see my staff members the way I have been seen in the past…the ways that my former supervisors saw me and encouraged me and lead me…even if that lead was a simple statement of: LaNail, you are ready to fly and we will hold you back if you stay here.


I cried when I got that message. It was triggered by former abandonment issues. It was rooted in good but “all good” doesn’t always feel good.


In any case, that Compassionate Leader contributed to the leader I am today. Without her compassion to see me...I would not be where I am now…even writing this blog.


As compassionate leaders, we help our staff see themselves and their potential. Remember, we are usually the people with vision...so we can SEE when it's time for someone to do more, do less, be more, be…less, stay, leave, sit, or fly. And when we clean our eyes so we can see, we must also remove the sheer film of ego too…because that interferes with compassion.


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