LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner calls himself "compassion driven," but it wasn't always that way --and without a key conversation, he might have never gotten LinkedIn to exponentially grow, not to mention brought about the multibillion IPO and, later, acquisition by Microsoft.

Amazingly, mentor Fred Kaufman gave Weiner just 11 words to totally reframe his definition of success.

Ruthlessness versus folly

In the latest Masters of Scale podcast, Weiner recalls being part of Yahoo's leadership and feeling stagnant in the culture. He shared his intention with consultant Kaufman: "To help expand the world's collective wisdom."

Here's how Kaufman replied:

"Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness and compassion without wisdom is folly."

Weiner says it changed his entire framework, encouraging him to join LinkedIn as CEO and to make empathy a key component of his leadership.

Wisdom without compassion

My grandfather looked at me, and, after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, "Jeff, one day you'll understand that it's harder to be kind than clever."

You can be brilliant, but people won't be able to hear you if your intention is foggy. Are you trying to change the world or change the people? Changing the world is easy, but changing individuals--motivating them rather than scolding them--is true leadership.

Compassion without wisdom

Empathy is just as useless without insight, clarity, and strategy. I talk about it in my latest book, Bring Your Worth: Level Up Your Creative Power, Value & Service to the World:

Base your worth only on what the world needs, then congratulations: You're a starving artist. This is perhaps the saddest outcome, as there is no relationship between the quality of your work and your actually [sacrificing yourself]. They are not inversely proportional.

This means if someone you lead is stuck in a hole, then you aren't helping by jumping in the hole with them. You give them support--and you can best support them by lending a hand, not by identifying with them to the point of losing your own footing.

Carry both wisdom and compassion, though, and you have the chemistry to lead well.

Published on: Nov 18, 2019
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