Back to blog overview

Motivation May 24, 2018

Why Harvard Thinks All Leaders Need This One Trait


Two researchers have just published the results of a survey they undertook with 1,000 business leaders from over 800 organisations in the Harvard Business Review.

The main quality they found that all high-performing leaders possessed? Compassion. 

In particular, they found that compassionate leaders’ organisations scored highly on critical performance dynamics such as team collaboration and employee turnover

What does compassion mean in business?

The two researchers involved in this study into great leaders, Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, defined compassion as “the intent to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others”. They also went on to explain that a compassionate leader is one that is equally focused on both their team and their profits thriving. 

Compassionate leaders are more interested in achieving long-term results than short-term ones and they understand that these come from coaching staff and providing meaningful, and sometimes tough, feedback.

How can I become a more compassionate leader?

Start with you

It sounds cheesy, but if you want to be compassionate towards others you have to begin with showing compassion towards yourself. 

Focus on your own well-being by exercising, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. The researchers from the study also highly recommend practising mindfulness to clear your head and achieve calmness. 

Also, practice reacting to your own mistakes the way you want to react to your employees’. Don’t be hard on yourself; work out how you can avoid the mistake and do better next time instead of beating yourself up about it. 

This will help you reflect this self-care attitude when responding to employees’ mistakes. 

Give more feedback

Although giving honest feedback can sometimes be hard, it is extremely valuable to your employees. 

Put aside your worries about offending a valued employee and instead think of the long-term gains you will get from giving constructive feedback that will help make a great employee even better. 

Take time making decisions

In moments of madness, it is important to maintain a cool head and think clearly about any decisions you need to make.

Be mindful of your employees; although a business decision might improve profits in the short-term, consider what it could mean for employee engagement in the long-term.

How compassionate am I?

The Harvard Business Review has created a quiz on their website where you can test how compassionate of a leader you are.

It only takes a minute to find out which of their assigned quadrants you fall into, which depends on how you score on your levels of compassion, wisdom, ignorance and indifference. They also give some tips on how you can improve depending on where you placed. 

You can take the test here.



Enjoyed the article? Share it

Related articles

guy working from home.jpg

3 tips to increase your performance working from home

How to keep a high performance from the comfort of your own house? It's easier than what you might think!

Lift motivation in the office.jpg

Top 10 Steps to Lift the Mood and Energy Levels at the Office

The only guide you need to improve your mood and energy levels at the workplace is here. Be energetic at your office with these amazing tips!


Five tips to boost your team building culture

Would you spend 400$ per employee to make them happy at work? You don't need to! Learn the 5 tips to create a long-lasting team culture - for free!

Boost performance with real-time insights

Plecto is a data visualization software that helps you motivate your employees to reach new limits and stay on top of your business.


Start 14-day free trial

Get started in minutes. No credit card required.