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After graduating from college, I landed my first job as a residence counselor at the University of Cincinnati. I was on a nine-month contract, so I supplemented my income by working for an employment services company, Manpower, during the summer. I worked a custodial position cleaning executives’ offices at Proctor and Gamble. I wondered what it must be like to be in such a nice workspace. I didn’t think about the headaches that come with the occupants of the C-suites I cleaned. I can’t imagine the pressure they must have faced. Pressure has the potential to harden those in leadership positions. The pace, competing priorities. Marketing production, budget monitoring, problem employees the list goes on.

I climbed the proverbial “corporate ladder” and became a top-level administrator with a corner office. Family and childhood friends marveled at the office’s size and decor. I thought to myself, you have no idea what comes with it. The power, prestige, and privilege are great. On the other hand, I had to make decisions that upset people. There are never enough resources to do all of the programs and projects stakeholders want to do. The buck stopped with me, so I said yes to some things and no to others. Deciding who to promote when there are three highly qualified individuals, but only one position made my stomach churn. Thank goodness I didn’t have to do it often, but firing people was difficult

This excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s poem If sums it up, ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you but, make allowance for their doubting too…If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue. Or walk with Kings and not lose the common touch.”

This poem reminded me of the leader I wanted to be. Because at one point in my career the pace and pressure started to change me. I became an expressive driver. A commander. I became a servant leader through reflection, active listening, and empathy. A commander has peoples’ hands. They will do as they are told. A servant leader has their hearts. When you have their hearts, they will do much more than expectedThat is the compassionate leadership dividend.

 According to Cook and Moore, Compassion Matters in Leadership, “compassion not only amplifies other important leadership competencies, but it’s also a differentiator for success. The six key building blocks of compassionate leadership are integrity, empathy, accountability, authenticity, presence, and dignity, and all together they improve employee engagement, well-being and intention to stay with an organization.”

Feel free to share examples of when you demonstrated grace under pressure at work or home. To learn more about my coaching practice visit