Compassion & Empathy in Business Leadership: Lessons from the CEO of LinkedIn

I’m pleased to feature this guest post written by Shreya Pattar. She’s a student and aspiring professional copywriter. I came across a viral update from her on linkedIn about an encounter with Jeff Weiner. I was so impressed by her story that I asked her to write an article about it. And here it is!

“Managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it’s a better way to build a company.”- Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

On the 24th of September 2018, I had the opportunity to listen to the CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, share his story and share his views on top leadership skills during his visit to my college.

When asked what is the most important quality in leadership, I heard two words that are rarely spoken in business: empathy and compassion. He then took the opportunity to share his insights on what compassion is, how it differs from empathy, and why compassion is more important than empathy.

Empathy is to think of wearing someone else’s shoes

Ever had a friend share a problem with you, and you say, “Oh I know how you feel”? Well, that’s empathy. When you understand and feel exactly what someone is going through, you are being empathetic. To be empathetic, you must see the other person’s point of view, understand their perspective and listen to them with all attention.

Compassion is to wear someone else’s shoes and walk the distance

When you act on what you understand or feel about someone, you are being compassionate. Empathy is when you see a man carry a heavy boulder and feel his suffering, but compassion is when you take the action to lighten his burden (As said in the book ‘The Art of Happiness’, a recommendation by Jeff himself).
Simply put, compassion is empathy plus action.

Why a workplace needs compassion

“Managers will tell people what to do, whereas leaders will inspire them to do it” -Jeff Weiner

1. It inspires and builds others
When we have compassion, we have the will to do better for others and help them out. This in turn means that we are willing to share our knowledge, our experiences and our stories that will teach and inspire others. Being compassionate by showing concern and kindness builds people up.

2. It improves productivity and morale
When we are ready to help people, they themselves start seeking further help and appreciating it. It develops trust, and inspires employees to be more active, enthusiastic and eager towards their roles. And once this happens in a professional environment where every person at every level of the organisation is ready to help someone, it creates a healthy work environment. It creates an outburst of positivity, one that is clearly channelled into all these lives, and reflected on the company.

3. It gives us peace and happiness
The good thing about compassion is that it helps not only others, but also ourselves. When we help somebody, we feel the contentment and happiness of our good deed, which is very important for a positive life.

After the interview, Jeff was kind enough to wait and click pictures with students. I went up to him and said, “Hey Jeff, my name is Shreya. I’d like to know how I, as a student, can make the most of my LinkedIn. Don’t want to wait till I graduate.”

“Okay, so what do you do, tell me about you.”

“I write. I’m a copywriter.”

“Do you have a LinkedIn profile?”


“Can I see it?”

He took my phone and went through my entire profile page. He asked me what my dream job is, where I would like to work, and who I would like to work for. He told me that I must know exactly what I want to do, and be as specific as possible, so that I know how to approach it.

We spoke for about 3 minutes, during which Jeff’s interest and enthusiasm was remarkable. He never broke eye contact, and was firm with what he said.The fact that he took out time to talk to me and give me advice showed exactly what he meant by being compassionate. He set an example and I now know firsthand what it means to have compassion.

All in all, compassion is what makes you a better human being.

Are you compassionate?