Reading Notes:Developing Sustainable Leaders Through Coaching and Compassion

Power (in the traditional sense) stresses people out, but being a coach lets you relax and recouperate.

Side note:Leadership is about effectively using the power that you’ve got. (In the Einstein v. Lincoln scenario, Einstein was a leader because he got people to consider and accept his ideas, which many smart people can’t do.)

Sources of Stress

  • Leadership almost always involves situations where you are accountable for something you can’t completely control.
  • Leaders have to put the needs of the group above their needs.

This stress is good in the short term becuase it helps people get things done. In the long term is suppresses the immunse system and imparis the body’s ability repair itself, leading to burnout.


Throughout history, coaching and mentorship have been an important part of leadership development. There are benefits for the coach, not just the coachee.

Coaching=”“helping others in their intentional change process (i.e., achieving their dreams or aspirations or changing the way they think, feel, and act)” Note: this is about the individual, NOT their job description or what use they might be to the organization. If you do that then you wind up playing politics for them, but not really listening to what they want and need.

The key here is compassion:

  • empathy or understanding the feelings of others; 
  • caring for the other person (e.g., affiliative arousal); and 
  •  willingness to act in response to the person’s feelings

Compassion activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which basically does the opposite of stress. Immune system is boosted, everything relaxes. “The effects evoke a mild sense of euphoria and well-being, similar to the sense of hope associated with thought patterns predominating in part in the LPFC.”

This also stops Leaders from being self-focused, (from identifying unhealthily with their organization’s performance.) Compassion for others gives them a reason to be other than their role in the group and the worldview that supports it, which allows for vitally flexible thinking.

If leaders try to coach too much, or coach people in a lot of pain, then compassion can switch from being healing to stressful. This is called “compassion fatigue.”


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