Compassion & Care in Leadership

Compassion & Care in Leadership

With this session, our aim was to build a direct link between compassion and global collaboration as we believe we cannot become a more collaborative world without changing our leadership culture.

Compassion offers a critical set of skills which we need to pay attention to as it could help us to stop the mass individualisation that we continue to observe today and which leads to more conflicts and impossible crises.

Can the ambitious Green Deal agenda be led in a non-compassionate world was one of the questions we asked ourselves during this session, which took place in December 2021.

Our guests inspired us with their stories on compassion in the world of business, the impact of a compassionate culture to solve the mega challenges ahead or how to introduce compassion in our institutional context and in politics, opening the way to new practices, such as holistic policymaking.


Professor Paul Gilbert OBE is a clinical psychologist, the author of the internationally bestselling books The Compassionate Mind and Overcoming Depression, and a pioneer in the field of Compassion Focused Therapy.

Beate Trueck is founder and director of Brussels Mindfulness. She has various Master’s degrees in Languages, intercultural relations and European Affairs (College of Europe). She used to work in leading positions at various international associations in Brussels. Amongst others she was the Director of the Brussels Office of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s biggest organisation for applied research and CEO of the European Venture Philanthropy Association, an organisation aiming at creating positive societal impact through venture philanthropy and impact investing.

Pinuccia Contino is Head of the Unit “Product safety and Rapid Alert System” in DG JUST. She has a degree in International Politics. She held various positions in the Commission, including in the Cabinet of Mr Busquin, Commissioner responsible for Research, and the Cabinet of Commissioner Figel, in charge of education, training, culture and youth. She was Head of Unit DGT.S.3 “Multilingualism and translation studies” in the Directorate-General for Translation where she developed the Juvenes Translatores contest for schools. Between January 2013 and December 2016, Pinuccia was Head of Communications, first in the same Directorate-General, then in the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers. She is following ACT (Applied Compassion Training) at Stanford.

(The video will be added soon).


  • What hinders our compassion: Stress / busy routine. TIme. Ego and worse: big egos. Fatigue. Manipulation of compassion by the media and seeing compassion as a commodity in our post-industrial era, making us sceptic about it (such as love which has become cheap as well). Lack of self-compassion. Workload. Too much focus about our problems. The sense of being used/abused/exploited/not valued. When someone (seems to deliberately) hurt you or someone else. Lack of trust. Fear (to be hurt) and disliked. Hypocrisy, superficial relationships. Competition. Taking things personally/Feeling that the effort I make disappears like water in the sand and is not appreciated/picked up. Limited patience. Being taking for granted. We live in a world of “lions & sharks” who are not up to compassion but they are the ones being rewarded by the system. Judgmental attitudes. Difficulty to manage/report abuses (justice is not really working!). Unsafe environments / lack of psychological safety. Lack of common values (less faith?). When tired or hungry. Staying in the doing mode/pressure to achieve (internal & external). Disconnected from one’s heart. Inability to recognize or connect to our emotions. “Projects first” approach. Individual evaluation system instead of valuing collective performance. Is there a male/female dimension?
  • Bringing more compassion to policy-making: Start with the self= Active listening to one self and the others. Giving without expecting something in return. And especially giving space/power/light/energy. And always keeping the others in mind (which means maintaining continuous conversations & no gaps, no distance anymore). Leading by example. Be attentive and learn more about the other person culture. Focus on the roots of Europe, why we came together in a first place = love, peace, more wellbeing, more protection, increased strength. Going out and meeting real people and have real-life experiences – stop the inhumane bureaucracy = Embrace caring culture. Stick to the goal of why these policies in a first place. Compassion as core value guiding policymaking from the start to the end (including compassion for next generations which do not yet have a voice). Focus on needs and requests of the people we serve. Speak to regular people, not just interest groups. Co-creating with those using the policies (at the end of it!). Break the box. Set new criteria and how to measure results (e.g. homeless). Aligning values and behaviours accordinly / be inspired by research on compassion in politics. Impact assessment. Having on-ground experience. Being in touch with the reality by doing volunteering. Create agoras – places everywhere where people can meet from everywhere (governments, businesses, NGOs, Academics, factories, farms, etc. etc.). Look at the wording of the policies (nativity from Hannah Arendt). Rename Recovery and Resilience Facility into Recovery, Resilience and Compassion Facility. Visit projects we fund and have meaningful conversations with people (stop with the speeches and other monologues!). Knowing the needs and hopes of the people and adapt fast our policies and administrative & financial procedures. Address competitive environment amongst management in particular (as it is hard to mix cut-throat ambition and compassion).
  • Skills we need to develop in government institutions: First compassion (it’s not kindness, and it’s not naivety). Self-awareness. Shift from blaming/judging mindset to acceptance and caring. Learn to have powerful authentic dialogue with citizens. Attentive listening. Emotional and social intelligence (in particular pro-social skills). Servant leadership. Learn to be the example, by showing compassion in everything you do. Learn respect (in particular about the need of sovereignty of people). Better communication skills, especially of facts. Reflexive/critical thinking. How to better recognize narcissist leaders and sociopaths, as well as pervert behaviours (the “hero type” flourishes in times of chaos). Move from theory to action (do not presume it’s easy !!! we are professional thinkers), that’s why only through global collaboration can we address our mega challenges, we need to put thinkers and doers in the same places. We need to learn passion again for the European project! Distributed leadership, collaboration skills to empower citizens, with humility, addressing the perception that we may be looking down on them. How to co-create with citizens. Non-violent communication.

Related links:

Compassion in Politics

The next session has already been published: Eliminating Covid-19. “You can’t go back and make a new… | by Obhi Chatterjee | Together-Ensemble | Medium

So to answer the question about can the Green Deal be implemented in an uncompassionate world, I hope you get it by now, it’s very simple, it’s a NO.

And, my next article will report on the session we did on the EU Institutional Doughnut.

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