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Compassionate Leadership

How to do Hard Things in a Human Way

Release Date: January 18, 2022

Leadership is hard. How can you balance compassion for your people with effectiveness in getting the job done?

A global pandemic, economic volatility, natural disaster, civil and political unrest. From New York to Barcelona to Hong Kong, it can feel as if the world as we know it is coming apart. Through it all, our spirit is being tested. Now more than ever, it's imperative for leaders to demonstrate compassion.

Leadership is hard. How can you balance compassion for your people with effectiveness in getting the job done? A global pandemic, economic volatility, natural disaster, civil and political unrest. From New York to Barcelona to Hong Kong, it can feel as if the world as we know it is coming apart. Through it all, our spirit is being tested. Now more than ever, it's imperative for leaders to demonstrate compassion.

But in hard times like these, leaders need to make hard decisions – giving tough feedback, making difficult choices that disappoint people, in some cases laying people off. How do you do the hard things that come with the responsibility of leadership, while remaining a good human being and bringing out the best in others? Most people think we have to make a binary choice between being a good person or being a tough, effective leader. This, however, is a false dichotomy. Being human and doing what needs to be done are not mutually exclusive. In truth, doing hard things is often the most human thing to do.

As founder and Managing Director of Potential Project Rasmus Hougaard and his longtime coauthor Jacqueline Carter show in this powerful, practical book, you must always balance caring for your people with leadership wisdom and effectiveness. Using data from thousands of leaders, employees, and companies in nearly 100 countries, the authors find that when leaders bring the right balance of compassion and wisdom, they foster much higher levels of employee engagement, performance, loyalty, and well-being for their people.

With rich examples from Netflix, IKEA, Unilever, and many other global companies, as well as practical tools and advice for leaders and managers at any level, Compassionate Leadership is your indispensable guide to doing the hard work of leadership in a human way.
“All business leaders care about business performance. This book uses deep research to demonstrate that compassionate and wise leadership is not an alternative to a performance culture, but is a key accelerator of it.”

Get to Know the Authors

Rasmus Hougaard is the founder and CEO of leadership development and consulting firm Potential Project. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and coach of C-suite executives at top global companies. In 2019, he was shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Leadership Award, recognizing “thinkers who shed powerful and original new light onto this perennial and still vital subject.” He writes for Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Business Insider and is the coauthor, with Jacqueline Carter, of The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results.
Jacqueline Carter is a partner and North American Director for Potential Project. She has over twenty years of experience helping leaders and organizations to manage change and achieve results. She is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Leader to Leader. She is the coauthor, with Rasmus Hougaard, of The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results.

Marissa Afton is a partner and head of global accounts. She joined Potential Project in 2015 because she is passionate about helping people to realize their full potential at work through better use of their brains, improved cognitions and enhanced focus, clarity and attention. Her academic background in psychology plus a personal practice in mindfulness and mind training for more than 25 years allows her to bring all of her experiences in executive leadership training, mindfulness in the workplace, workshop facilitation, education, human capital and performance coaching to her role.

Moses Mohan is a partner and Global Head of Leadership Solutions. In his past lives, he advised leading financial services clients at McKinsey and Company and the Government of Singapore on industry transformation, coached entrepreneurs and leaders to live fearlessly from their highest potential, and cultivated inner leadership and mental clarity as a Zen Monk.

Learn More About Our Research

For The Human Leader study, Potential Project partnered with academic researchers at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Toronto, and the University of Amsterdam School of Business to analyze the critical attributes that constitute a new model of leadership, including wisdom and compassion.The survey, which included more than 2,000 participants, found that employee job satisfaction increased by 86%, job performance increased by 20%, and burnout improved by 64% when leaders leveraged these qualities.

Learn More About Our Research

For The Human Leader study, Potential Project partnered with academic researchers at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Toronto, and the University of Amsterdam School of Business to analyze the critical attributes that constitute a new model of leadership, including wisdom and compassion.

The survey, which included more than 2,000 participants, found that employee job satisfaction increased by 86%, job performance increased by 20%, and burnout improved by 64% when leaders leveraged these qualities.

Read The Human Leader Study