Business Perspectives

May 8, 2014

Great leadership a mixture of compassion, accountability

Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere.

Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere.

Accountability without compassion gets you alienated.

Blending the two is the essence of great leadership. Let’s take a look.

Compassion without accountability:

• Believes listening, consensus and empathy are sufficient motivators of behavior.
• Avoids asking directly for things.
• Views confronting negative behavior as uncaring and mean.
• Common philosophy includes, “Be nice,” “Don’t hurt other people’s feelings,” “Put yourself in her shoes,” “Don’t raise your voice.”
• Results in poor follow-through, low confidence that goals will be accomplished, and a leader who is liked but not respected.
• Agreement without commitment.

Accountability without compassion:

• Believes rules, consequences and expectations are sufficient motivators of behavior.
• Avoids listening.
• Views empathy as a sign of weakness.
• Common philosophy includes, “Failure is not an option,” “High expectations are necessary,” “Sometimes you have to show them who’s boss.”
• Results in low morale and trust, and a leader who is feared but not respected.
• Compliance without loyalty.

Compassionate accountability:

• Openness to one’s own and others’ feelings, needs, and wants – validates emotions without commiserating or discounting.
• Resourcefulness around problem-solving – curiously explores possibilities without taking over responsibility for the solution.
• Persistence around commitments, goals, and boundaries – without threats, ultimatums, or implicit expectations.

In the long run, compassionate accountability feels better, gets more done, and builds stronger loyalties.

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos