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Compassionate Leadership - It's essential but is it enough?

In 2020, Hougaard, Carter and Hobson wrote an article entitled 'Compassionate Leadership is Necessary - but Not Sufficient.'

The article acknowledged the huge and important benefits of having compassion as a leader, including raising levels of trust, enhancing loyalty and being perceived as more competent.

Many of us are lucky enough to have been led by a compassionate leader and have felt the benefits and security that results, however, research shows that being compassionate in isolation is not enough to be an effective leader.

Hougaard et al. argue that compassionate should be combined with wisdom. 'Wisdom' was defined as an understanding of how to motivate people and deliver on the necessary and agreed priorities. Leadership is difficult. There is constant pressure to deliver and compassion alone does not always deliver results.

The Wise Compassion Leadership Matrix

Source: Rasmus Hougaard

Which style of leadership do you find yourself operating in most of the time and why? The authors of the article posted an assessment that you could do to gain further understanding about your compassion as a leader. (You confined that at the bottom of the page.)

So how can we move towards working with wise compassion?

The article gives several suggestion of how you can start to cultivate wise compassion. These include:

  • Start by being kinder and more compassionate to yourself. Self-compassion means less self-criticism and more positive self-talk.

  • Before you meet with anyone be clear about your intention and ask yourself how you can be best serve this person/people.

  • Train yourself to be more compassionate - yes there are ways to do it!

  • Be honest and transparent with staff.

  • If you need to train your 'wise' and lean towards compassion, try to plan at least one compassionately direct and assertive conversation each day.

You can find out more by reading the whole article.

Want to check out your leadership compassion?

If you are interested in developing your compassionate leadership then check out our 'Compassionate Leadership' workshop.


Hougaard, R., Carter, J. and Hobson, N., 2020. Compassionate leadership is Necessary—but not sufficient. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr. org/2020/12/compassionate-leadership-is-necessary-but-not-sufficient.



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