Becoming That Leader Others Wish They Were: Discussing Influence and Compassion

In the previous post we introduced some traits of great leaders, and delved into two traits: great leaders having clarity and being warm. This post discusses how great leaders have influence and are compassionate.

Great leaders have influence

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines influence as the power to change or affect someone or somethingthe power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen or a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way.

To be a great leader, one must be influential. Influence, however, is not acquired in a day. It is a series of deliberate actions over time that allows the individual to eventually move into this position of influence. A leader can have influence in different forms, for example getting people to buy into an idea, challenging status quo, inspiring people, etc.


For one to become influential, there has to be an element of trust. Trust is that feeling that comes about when individuals believe that the leader is driven by something other than their own personal gain or is the authority in that particular space. Because people have an innate desire to believe in something/someone, they will look to a person who can offer them a cause (48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene). As a result, this leader will be able to influence behavior, performance, events, outcomes and create changes and improvements.

Great leaders are compassionate

The same dictionary also defines compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Beyond distress, compassion is the art of knowing and understanding the needs of others, understanding their emotional state, being empathetic, having selfless direction. Compassion is what moves a leader to help people, and helping people is the cornerstone of leadership. Compassion opens the individual’s eye to the needs of others so that he or she can provide leadership, security and relief, not just ensure projects are successfully exectued. Having compassion promotes healthy relationships and ensures positivity in an organization.

The Tibetan scholar Thupten Jinpa defines compassion as “a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.” Specifically, he defines compassion as having three components:

  1. A cognitive component: “I understand you.”
  2. An affective component: “I feel for you.”
  3. A motivational component: “I want to help you.”


This enables the leader to move from an “I” mindset to a “We” mindset. This leader becomes a ‘Level 5 leader’ (Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, Jim Collins).

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you!

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