Lead with Compassion, then Manage for Competence

Lead with Compassion

The message I have for those in HR and all managers who are now able to hire, is to interview with fewer shortcuts and with more compassion.

For instance, I understand how online applications save time and help in screening, but those who use them are losing sight of basic etiquette: There is a real person behind each application, and candidates are craving more Aloha in what has become a faceless process. It is appalling that the majority of those who apply online never receive any human response, not even a thank you for applying.

Then there’s all the hidden talent that slick digital screening keeps unknown: Employers are missing out too, because they aren’t looking hard enough. They make a rookie mistake, in assuming that the right info is appearing on their online application in the first place. Bad assumption: Even if you ask the right questions, there’s no guarantee that you get the right answers — even from the perfect candidate.

Leading with compassion in this process then, is about leading with empathy, with open-mindedness, and with smarts. Leading with compassion is having a positive expectancy about the innate good in all people: It’s there, waiting for you to tap into it, and place it well.

However compassion alone is never enough.

Strength and Delicacy Combined

Manage for Competence

Let’s review our basic definitions of leading and managing as verbs connected to energy. Energy is the manager’s greatest resource: It’s the fuel which powers your production capacity, and creates all other business assets.

  • LEADERSHIP is the workplace discipline of creating energy connected to a meaningful vision.
  • MANAGEMENT is the workplace discipline of channeling that mission-critical energy into optimal production and usefulness.

Leading with compassion will recruit new energy. Your Aloha has made your company attractive to the best candidates.
Managing for competence will channel the energy of that new recruit you hire every day going forward.

Before an Alaka‘i Manager makes a job offer, they must think about how a candidate will fit in with the rest of their team. They want team players, sure, but they also want every single person in their workplace to be a star, exceptional at what they do.

The fact of the matter is this: Stars want to work with other stars. People want to believe that they are working with the best people in their field, and not with others who are second best.

In essence, Alaka‘i Managers will rightfully expect that their people re-apply for their jobs each and every day, applying for them by demonstrating their competence, their passion, their strengths, and their visionary thinking in the work they do. It is that expectation they give their support to as managers.

Managing with Aloha is not “going soft” with compassion alone. KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u (chapter 5): We want to excel each and every day:

“Excellence is never an accident: It is always intentional, and it always demands more than the norm. Be your best. Don’t settle for less, for there’s no honor and no reward in aiming lower than what you are capable of achieving. Once achieved, excellence has a way of permeating every aspect of what you do, and it affects everyone you touch in an organization, infecting those around you with zest and vitality.”
KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u, the value of excellence, in Managing with Aloha

Compassionate hiring is smart, but it’s only the beginning.

Unfurling Hope

In the archives:

Your Managing with Aloha self-coaching:

I have categorized this post with 2 of our 9 Key Concepts: Can you answer why?


  1. Rosa Say says

    Sunday update:
    This post had originated with current conversations within my coaching laboratory. Locally too, we are seeing a competency case study play out in Hawai‘i right now that seems to have reached a tipping point: Our governor, less than a year into his 4-year term, has lost 8 of his key staff as of this writing, including his Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief. Reference articles:

    Two of these three articles point to a struggle of youth versus experience, and old guard versus new guard in government’s party-blind bureaucracy. Those may be how the story is playing out most visibly (each another fascinating case study in itself), but what we know as Alaka‘i managers is this: Both leading well and managing well are MIA through-out these events, and as usual, they matter. They are the problem-solvers, and the competency-makers, our MWA Key 4: Role of the Manager (category index)

    Hawai‘i’s governor has three more years to turn this around and emerge as a stronger leader and much better manager. Let’s hope he does.