Compassionate leadership: The secret to thriving in a disrupted world

2 minute read

Amid the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, cultivating empathetic behaviour and compassionate leadership can create a more human and humane workplace, allowing individuals to grow and thrive. Leadership and future of work thinker Michael Jenkins talks to Siân Harrington in the latest Work’s Not Working… Let’s Fix It podcast

Compassion isn't just a nice-to-have trait, it is essential for professional success and organisational advancement, says Michael Jenkins, leadership thinker and author of Expert Humans: Critical Leadership Skills for a Disrupted World.

In the latest episode in the Work’s Not Working… Let’s Fix It podcast on The ROI of Empathy. How Compassionate Leaders Drive Business Results Jenkins introduces the concept of being an expert human – leveraging our innate ability to care, connect, and build meaningful relationships. His conversation with The People Space co-founder and editorial director Siân Harrington delves into the effects of digital transformation, the pandemic, inequality, sustainability and trust as disruptors in today's world.

Jenkins also discusses the "tyranny of the algorithm" and the cyclical nature of AI advancement as well as the importance of purpose in a disrupted world and the caring trio of altruism, compassion and empathy.

Key points

  • The rise of the expert human in the AI era: The importance of compassionate leadership to foster a workplace where people can flourish amid digital transformations
  • The ACE model –Altruism, Compassion, Empathy: Why these traits are essential not just individually but as a combined force to drive positive workplace culture and success
  • The non-linear path of ACE: Jenkins explains that, while empathy often leads to compassion and then altruism, the focus in the workplace should remain on fostering empathy and compassion rather than strictly following a sequence
  • Psychological safety and ACE: Citing scholars like Gervase Bushe and Amy Edmondson, Jenkins underscores the role of empathetic and compassionate interactions in creating a psychologically safe environment
  • Real ROI from ACE implementation: A study from a US care home shows that empathy and compassion training can lead to improved KPIs and even extend life expectancy, indicating wide-ranging industry benefits
  • Practical implementations  and outcomes: A global company demonstrates the effectiveness of the ACE model with its Coffee Club initiative, leading to enhanced talent retention and innovation
  • The cautionary tale of Nokia: Jenkins references Edmondson's work to highlight how a lack of psychological safety can lead to organisational failure
  • Empathy as a starting point: Focusing on empathy can be more approachable for many and can naturally lead to increased compassion in the workplace
  • Leadership for future disruptors: Emphasizing the need for leaders like New Zealand’s former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, Jenkins points out that compassionate leadership is crucial for tackling future challenges, especially in sustainability
  • Three steps for leaders: Jenkins advises leaders to cultivate self-compassion, normalize the conversation around empathy in HR and engage with fiction and films to enhance their empathy and understanding of others.

This episode of Work's Not Working… Let's Fix It! paints a comprehensive picture of why the human touch – encapsulated in the ACE model – is not only desirable but essential for the future of work. Tune in for a deep dive into how emotional intelligence can be a game-changer in your professional environment and how you can achieve a return on investment on empathy.

About Michael Jenkins



Michael Jenkins, born in Malaysia, has had a distinguished career across continents. A Durham University alumnus with advanced studies from Nanzan University, he's worked at Toyota, led the University of Bath's Foreign Languages Centre and was a director at INSEAD. A former CEO of Roffey Park leadership institute, he founded Expert Humans and partners with the Future Work Forum. An acclaimed HR thinker, he is author of Expert Humans: Critical Leadership Skills for a Disrupted World. His next book, Toxic Humans – Combatting Poisonous Leadership in Boards and Organisations, will be published by Emerald on 18 January 2024.

Published 8 November 2023
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