MSC Leadership — Achieve Hard Results With Soft Skills

Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion in a corporate sound like a contradiction. It Isn't!


Marty de Jonge

3 years ago | 4 min read

Road to Professional Agile Leadership. How Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion can save your organization.

Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion in the corporate world sound like a contradiction. Yet it is a serious topic of conversation within companies such as Google, Facebook, McKinsey and Deloitte.

Rasmus Hougaard is responsible for putting these topics on the C-level agenda. In his best selling book, The Mind of the Leader, he makes the value of these “soft” skills for achieving hard results painfully clear.

The labor market is changing. For large companies such as Accenture, Unilever, or Johnson & Johnson, 70 percent of their workforce now consists of millennials, and they are not unique in this. Millennials look at work differently than the generations before them. They care far less about how much their salary is and whether or not they get promoted. They want a meaningful job in which they feel connected to their managers, colleagues, and subordinates. They want work that matters, that’s meaningful. However, that’s often not embedded yet in the way organizations work today. It’s all still very hierarchical, based on power structures, on external motivation instead of intrinsic motivation.

“If companies want to attract top talent in the future, they must change their culture.”

However, that alone is often not enough to convey issues such as Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion — which are still seen as soft and fluffy — to the C-level table. To do so, it must fit seamlessly with daily practice and business objectives. It must be something that makes people more resilient and efficient. Something that makes them think more innovatively and which increases the agility of the organization. However, before we go into that in more detail, we need a little more context.

A PAID reality in a VUCA world

On the one hand, we now live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world around us. On the other hand, we live, from a more internal point of view, in a PAID reality. (Pressure, Always on, Information overload and Distraction)

It is now more difficult than ever for people to concentrate. We are constantly distracted by the electronics we carry with us. We are so dependent on- and addicted to it that our brains almost burst apart from all those stimuli. That leads to stress. And on top of that, work has become more complex since we have to process much more information. The combination of these things makes it difficult for people to keep their heads to it.

How do Mindfulness, Selflessness, and Compassion contribute to organizational objectives?


Mindfulness is simply being fully aware of the present moment. It is defined as “paying attention to the moment without judging.” We live on autopilot for a large part of our lives, without really being aware of the moment in which we are. We often live in our heads and are busy with something that is already behind us, or something that lies in the future. That is also the case in the workplace.

Mindfulness is certainly not a passive attitude to life. In fact: by being in the moment and noticing what is happening, you can experience more consciously and make good choices.

Extensive scientific research shows that mindfulness reduces stress, worry, and increases the sense of the quality of life. In addition, cognitive functions such as keeping an overview, solving problems, creativity and putting things into perspective are improving.

  • How does it contribute: Focus


In the case of selflessness, it is essential to put the other person’s interests at the center rather than starting from the self-interest.

In this case, it is all about putting the interests of the people in your organization at the center and making that clear to them. By doing that you show them that they are seen and appreciated. This gives everyone a positive feeling and will also positively influence his or her motivation. It only works if it is true. It must, therefore, come from within.

  • How does it contribute: Intrinsic Motivation


With compassion, you show sympathy with the other. As a result of this, you show empathetic capacity. It is a form of kindness and you do that with your feeling and not just with your mind. It is crucial that you make your degree of compassion clear to the other person, that you show it. So you don’t have to be ashamed of it. Your empathetic capacity must be well developed. For the one this is more natural than with the other. It is potentially present in everyone, but sometimes it still needs to be further developed. Here, too, it must come from within. Only then is it real and it will be seen that way.

  • How does it contribute: Trust

If you consider that Unpredictability (the core of VUCA) and Stress (the core of PAID) are the most critical risks on one side of the scales, you can also imagine that Focus, Motivation, and Trust can be essential counterparts for the other side. If MSC leadership is truly embraced, It will tip the balance in the right direction.

Just doing mindfulness can be used on many levels, but if you start MSC seriously, the top must participate. It’s all about leadership, it’s about changing the organizational culture, and we know that management is mainly responsible for organizational culture. And you have to take it seriously. If you do this a little half-heartedly, it will be empty and meaningless, and it will not have any impact on the culture. It must come from the board and seep into the organization from there.

Now leadership training, such as MBAs, focuses on strategy development, understanding of the markets, competition and the creation of Excel files. But that’s like building a roof before the foundation is there. If you don’t understand the culture of a company, then you can have all the strategies of the world, but then it will never work.

To end with the words of Peter Drucker:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

You have to understand the culture, and those are your people. If you don’t understand your people, you can’t understand yourself.

Leadership starts with yourself. If you can lead yourself, you can also lead others.


Created by

Marty de Jonge

As an agnostic change agent, I am constantly amazed at what happens in organizations and learn every day. Enthusiastic writer and always open for discussion.







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