Compassionate Leadership: The “Heart” of the Matter

One loving heart sets another on fire.
~Attributed to St. Augustine
Recently, I had the privilege to attend the 2013 Sisters of Charity Health System Leadership Retreat held in Cleveland, Ohio. The leadership retreat is an annual gathering where leaders representing five acute care, Catholic hospitals; three grantmaking foundations, two elder care facilities; and several health and human service outreach organizations, come together for a time of reflection, sharing, and development. This year’s theme for the retreat was, Compassionate Leadership.
While there were many, many powerful “take-aways” from the retreat, for me the most powerful emerged in the form of a very poignant question, “What needs to be in place for commitment to be stronger than circumstances?”As I pondered the answer to this question as it relates to my life – both personally and as a leader, the first thought that came to my mind was related to my commitment as a parent. From the day I gave birth to each of my children, my commitment was to parent them to the best of my ability. This commitment was a “for better or for worse” obligation and promise to give parenting my all.My commitment was not predicated on the fact that there would be situations, issues, difficulties, challenges, disappointments, or problems as a result of parenting. My commitment was not based on unforeseen choices my children might make or unknown paths they might take. Instead, my commitment was based on something much stronger, much deeper, and more powerful than the circumstances my children and I would face – My commitment was based on Compassion.You might ask, “What does this have to do with leadership?” Well, I’m glad you asked that question.Leaders in today’s marketplace face various circumstances. Whether strategizing ways in which to navigate the fluctuating economy, revisiting and revamping plans for organizational sustainability or working to maintain strong and vibrant teams – leaders face mountainous circumstances. Oftentimes in the midst of the situations, issues, difficulties, challenges, disappointments, or problems associate with leading, the temptation to lose heart can be great. However, instead of losing heart, these are the moments that call us to lead with heart. And at the heart of this form of leadership is…Compassion.

Consider this:

Compassion is characterized by displaying a profound sense of interconnectedness by:

•    responding to needs, pains and sufferings of others with concern, empathy and support
•    treating all persons with dignity
•    exhibiting an attitude of acceptance and forgiveness
•    listening with empathy and attention
•    serving as a catalyst for change, especially for the disenfranchised

Therefore, I ask you, “What needs to be in place for your leadership commitment to be stronger than your leadership circumstances?  Whatever your answer, I do hope it brings you to the heart of the matter.