Leadership in its highest form does not exist without compassion. There are many definitions of leadership. For the most part each of us has our own understanding of leadership. For some leadership is about command and control. For others leadership is about being an example and hoping others follow, and yet for others leadership is about helping a group of people relinquish themselves from the oppression of another group. Leadership can be defined in many vast shades of black and white. Yet the highest and most noble form of leadership is only realized when compassion is the major operating paradigm.
Strictly speaking, compassion is deeply feeling the pains of others to a point of action. Having compassion for others is an essential attribute of leaders. In a social perspective, it is compassion that fuels the fire of great leaders. It is the pain of others that forces a creative mind to envision a future state. It was the oppression of the African American people that led Martin Luther King Jr. to envision a future where “individuals would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It was watching the sick and old die on the streets of Calcutta that led Mother Teresa to create the City of Peace; a place where those who were forgotten could be remembered. It is the love that only comes through compassion, that moves great leaders like these to envision the world in a different way.
Leaders know how to mobilize others to envision a common future. Mobilizing others rests on a leader’s ability to understand those he or she is trying to mobilize. It is genuinely understanding and caring by a leader that deems a leader worthy of leading others. As followers we tend to be willing to follow those who we believe understand us.
Some argue that leaders have often led without caring or understanding their people. Perhaps this is true, but I would argue that these people were not leading, they were dictating. There is a fine line between leading others by helping them find voice to a common vision versus manipulating others to follow your vision. The issue is that most leaders and dictators start in a similar place. They begin by developing a personal vision, or an idealized future state. Their visions are based upon their own perceptions of the world. The confusing turning point distinguishing a leader and dictator is found at the point of resonation. The point of resonation is the event or experience when a leader gives voice to his vision. If at the point of resonation, the leader must use coercing and marketing, he is flirting with dictatorship. A leader's vision will resonate with the people, and speak to their needs and desires in such a way that they become mobilized as a group.
By having compassion for others a potential leader will qualify to become a leader. It is the deep caring for others that allows a leader to access the people he or she will someday be honored to lead. And it is this caring attitude coupled with action that makes a leader a leader. Every Month A Million