How to Be a Compassionate Leader by Ronnie Floyd
Forward Leaders Are Compelled by Compassion
The greatest leader in the history of the world was also the most compassionate. His name is Jesus Christ. His life, words, style, and even tone all captivated masses of people. He was Truth, is Truth, and will always be the Truth. When He shared truth with others, they listened; His words and tone captivated them.
I am reminded of a story in the Scripture when Jesus demonstrated compassion. In order to frame the story, it is important to note what was happening in Luke chapter nine. Let me set it up for you. Jesus not only healed people, He forgave them. He hung out with sinners and called Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him. Jesus even challenged the religious traditions of His day, calling people to a new way of doing things. He also restored a girl back to life and healed two blind men. Jesus then liberated a demon-possessed man. It surely seemed that Jesus was the Son of God.
Everywhere Jesus went in various towns and villages, He taught in the synagogues about the Kingdom of God. He also performed miracles that brought healing from diseases and sicknesses. When Jesus saw the people, who had gathered in great numbers, He became moved by compassion because they were so weary and worn out, deeply in need of leadership. He then told His disciples how the possibilities for harvest were so great, but the workers were few. Therefore, we need pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.
The gospel writer mentioned the compassion of Jesus Christ in Matthew 9:36. It says, “When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like a sheep without a shepherd.”
Some translations say that He was moved with compassion. He was so moved by what He saw and heard that He felt for the people.
This word for compassion is a very dramatic word. This word signifies the bowels or intestines in a human being. It is similar to what we say in today’s world when we say the phrase, “with all my heart.” Therefore, if interpreted today in our language, it may sound something like, “When Jesus saw everyone in their weariness and worn-out state, His heart was moved with great emotion toward them.” The compassion of Jesus was so real; we see the humanity of Jesus Christ.
We know that many times Jesus was moved with great emotion for the people, not just because they were ill physically, but because He saw their desperate spiritual condition. He was moved to tears when He heard of Lazarus’s death and when He saw the city of Jerusalem. His passion to redeem the world ignited a deep compassion for the spiritual needs of people.
More than any leader I know of, Jesus was compelled by compassion. His compassionate heart drove Him to love people unconditionally and sacrificially. This is why He loved us so much that He not only chose to live without sin, but to die for our sins on the cross. Therefore, Jesus was a forward leader who was compelled by compassion.
What It Means to Have Compassion for Others
I want to share how I personally define compassion. When we see situations or people and we are moved with compassion for them, then we understand compassion as the following:
Compassion is seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and feeling what they feel.
When we see a person experience a transition that involves a major loss of some kind and our desire is to help them, this is what we do: We must see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel. This is having compassion.
When we are willing to enter into another person’s life and into their pain, we are able to be moved with compassion. If we are flying high with things going well, and we become aware of someone walking through a difficult time, we sometimes do not have immediate compassion for them. But if we stop long enough, go for a visit, and listen to them, then we will develop compassion for them. If we are running so fast that we don’t take the time to do this, there is little chance that even the most merciful person on this earth will be moved with compassion for them.
When we understand their situation and enter into their feelings, we will develop compassion. Why? It happens because we are beginning to see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel. As Jesus moved through the people and was with the people, He became compelled by compassion. Just as He did this and was moved with great emotion, we have to do the same by being willing to enter into their pain, suffering, and loss.
You know this has happened when you drive away from someone’s home after they have lost their spouse or child to death and all you can think about is what they must be going through. I have done this many times through the years. At times, it results in you waking up in the middle of the night and your mind goes straight to them. You recall their words, their shock, their depth of loss, and their tears of great emotion. In other words, you just don’t get over it. It moves you to stay with them through this season of despair and loss.
This is compassion. Why? It is because you are seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, and feeling what they feel. It is like you are dialing so much into their pain, you are saying with your heart and life, “I understand you. I feel for you. I want to help you.” This is what it means to have compassion for other people. I believe this is leading forward. This is the kind of compassion that future leaders will have to demonstrate in order to gain the credibility to lead others.
I want to be very clear that having compassion does not eliminate the importance of other great traits of leadership. I am saying that it is:
- Confidence with compassion
- Competence with compassion
- Authority with compassion
- Intensity with compassion
- Follow-through with compassion
- Due diligence with compassion
- Leading with compassion
Forward leadership is not calling for us to dumb down major leadership needs, nor is it demeaning the importance or necessity of needed leadership values like confidence, competence, authority, intensity, follow-through, due diligence, and leading. Absolutely not! Forward leadership is calling for a new kind of leader that does each of these and more with great compassion.
[Editor’s Note: This excerpt is taken from Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders by Ronnie W. Floyd, Copyright © 2015 by Ronnie W. Floyd. Used by permission of B&H Publishing Group. www.bhpublishinggroup.com.]
Ronnie Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2014 and is pastor of Cross Church in NW Arkansas, a multi-site fellowship of believers. From a desire to influence the vibrant Northwest Arkansas business community, he founded the Northwest Arkansas Business Persons Summit. Additionally, he also founded the Cross Church School of Ministry, a one-year ministry residency that prepares leaders for life, ministry, and gospel advancement globally. Currently, he is the general editor of Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life, and author of more than twenty books.