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Show compassion and reap rewards

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

The Dalai Lama offers surprising advice for leaders who worry about becoming too self-centered. His Holiness actually doesn’t see self-regard as entirely bad.

“We need to be somewhat self-­centered in order to succeed in life,” he says.

The most effective leaders show compassion. They’re aware of others’ emotional states and demonstrate genuine concern when they sense that colleagues may feel sad or troubled.

For the Dalai Lama, the act of compassion is actually driven by a healthy dose of selfishness. He argues that the primary reason to practice compassion is for your own self-gain.

“We are selfish,” he says. “But be wise selfish rather than foolish selfish.”

Wise self-centeredness means expressing concern for others because it will ultimately work to your own benefit. It’ll make you feel better about yourself and, in turn, attract others to your way of thinking and seeing the world.

Better yet, exhibiting compassion softens the hard edges of your ego. You’re less likely to make enemies—and let your arrogance rise to the surface—if you’re concentrating on acknowledging others’ feelings and expending effort to connect with people more fully.

Showing compassion also feeds on itself. Once you start to shine the spotlight on others and attempt to understand their feelings, you’ll do it more easily and more often.

If you view niceness as a means to an end, then even if you’re cynical by nature, you can learn to demonstrate more sensitivity toward those around you. Yes, it’s a selfish act. But at least you’re strengthening your bonds with others and en­­hancing your leadership potential.

— Adapted from 10% Happier, Dan Harris, HarperCollins.

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