Compassion and Change

Posted Thursday, December 13, 2012

Allen Slade

Your character determines your impact as a leader in the midst of change. Character is one of the four C’s you need to master for change:

Commitment. Embrace the change. Jump into the next challenge.

Competence. Become better at change. Grow by tackling new challenges, playing with the new system, applying the new concept or talking to the new person.

Capacity. Be able to change quickly and often. Multi-task competing changes. Manage planned change, but also be able to “ready, fire, aim.”

Character. Be known for your integrity and compassion.

When I think about character, I see integrity as tough and compassion as gentle. Leaders clearly need to be tough to drive change. Your integrity should be rock solid, especially during tough transitions. To be known for integrity, you should be a truth teller and a promise keeper.

But how about compassion? How does this gentle character trait help your change leadership?

Change creates stress. It disrupts your followers’ sense of stability, causing them to feel adrift. Employees’ implicit understandings about job security, rewards, roles and responsibilities are shaken. Their relationships with top executives, you as a leader and even their peers can be destabilized.

One way to create stability during change is with compassion. Compassion begins with listening. If a change creates uncertainty, allow people to express their distress to you. Empathize with their feelings.

Next, be willing to act on their concerns. Provide real help. This means addressing their needs, whether it be for information, a bit of slack on deadlines or practical assistance in accomplishing their tasks.

Often, compassion requires personal sacrifice. To meet the needs of the people you lead, you have to devote extra time and energy to them. This is especially tough in times of transition, because you are also stressed. You need to be hardy enough to be a servant leader. You will need to give more – work longer, invest more emotionally, listen when you would rather talk.

Branding yourself as a servant is not just something for a job interview. I believe leaders are called to serve. Servant leadership is a high calling to a lowly state. The most extreme example of servant leadership is celebrated at Christmas:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. (Eph. 2: 2-7).

As a leader in the midst of change, you need commitment and competence. You need capacity so that you can give more. Your character should combine integrity and compassion. Then, you can lead through the tough times and earn the proud title of servant.

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