Is there such thing as too much compassion in leadership?

Decision making is a natural part of leadership and so often, leaders will come across tough decisions that really test their abilities to keep everyone’s best interests at heart. It’s not always possible, of course, so how can leaders be confident as they make these decisions while still keeping compassion at the forefront of their mind?

The balance can be hard to find and the search can cripple some leaders – many put compassion aside in favour of simply making a decision, while others have so much compassion for their team that they refuse to make a decision that might not be looked at favourably.

I have found over the years that annual planning time can really drag this balance into the spotlight. Every year there’s a need to reallocate funds or add resources into different parts of a business and the tough decisions are in abundance – it can often mean that employees need to be relocated or run the risk of losing their positions if they’re no longer needed. It’s easy at these times to get caught up in the emotion of it all but it’s also important to remember the two big expectations in leadership:

#1: As a leader, you are expected to make decisions

These decisions might be as small as choosing the kind of chairs your team will sit on or it could be as big and as impactful as deciding to say goodbye to an employee. Whatever the decision, it’s important to remember that your team is looking to you, as a leader, to make it. 

#2: As a leader, you are expected to know your team well

It’s important to know the role each of your team members play within your team. This is more than just their job description – there are social and emotional roles that employees play too. It’s also important to know how employees will react to a decision so that you can anticipate it and cater for it – you can’t read their minds, but you invest time in getting to know them and what makes them tick so that you can care for them in times that call for compassion.

Things to remember as you come up against tough decisions

  1. Decisions are always made because of the impact they will have on the business – your role as a leader is to ensure that the long-term success of the business is a priority for everyone.
  2. Decisions will always have a human impact. Your people are at the heart of your organisation, so any decisions will always impact them in some way. You can’t let compassion get in the way of making a decision but cutting compassion out altogether is not sustainable for the health of your team or your leadership.
  3. Whatever decision you do make, always be clear and consistent with your communication. Communication starts from the top, so make sure you are managing what is being said so that the right people know the reason behind the decision.
  4. Spend time checking in on people. Any big decision is bound to have an impact on your people, so make sure that you check in on them to be confident that they are managing the changes well.

Good leaders know how the professional and the personal work together to make high-performing teams but they also know how to separate the two when push comes to shove to make sure that the best decisions get made for the organisation. The reality is that basing decisions based on emotions is not a good idea but compassion is still important in the process, so that your team feels supported through the change.

If you’re ready to get the balance between confident decision making and compassion right, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.