Leadership Communication Lesson #4: Communicate With Compassion for Real Connection

Tonight we’re in Milan for the 4th concert of the Springsteen European Tour. I’ve heard many stories about the legendary Italian fans and the concerts in Milan so I’m really looking forward to tonight. After tonight we head to Florence with a stop in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower then to the show. If you’d like to follow my unique journey go to Facebook to see the map of the path we’ll be taking throughout this tour of Western Europe.



One of the greatest leaders in the history of team sports is National Hockey League Hall of Famer Mark Messier. Messier is the only player in league history to be the captain of two different teams that won the Stanley Cup. Overall in his career he was on a total of six Stanley Cup Championships.

Many leaders believe that communicating with compassion may be considered being a “soft” leader. Yet, no one ever associated the adjective “soft” with Mark Messier, one of the fiercest competitors that combined scoring talents with a physical style of play in the history of the game.

Here’s what Messier once said about the key to leadership:

“To lead, you have to have the trust of the players, and to do that you have to find a way to connect with them, to find common ground with every individual. It’s a people issue, not a sports issue. The way to find that common thread is compassion.” Messier added, “With compassion the appeal to the player is much deeper than the old hard-ass line that you’re going to get reprimanded if you don’t play well. We try to build a team, to bond, through the course of a year. And you can do that if you appeal in a compassionate way.”

If leading with compassion worked for Messier, it’s probably good enough for us, mere mortal leaders.

It’s often been said, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I’d like to create a similar phrase for leaders to think about regarding building a high-performing team built on high levels of trust by leading with compassion:

“people don’t care how hard you need them to work for your vision, until they know how much you care about them as a human being first, and a team member with a role to fill, second.”

Something to think about?

What do you think of this series on Leadership Communication Lessons? Please leave a comment below and we’ve got two more coming your way before I return to the office on June 14th.

‘next up are concerts after tonight’s show in Milan is Florence, Italy.