How to Lead with Compassion from Jeff Weiner, Ex-CEO of LinkedIn

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Dear subscribers,

Now more than ever, we need people who can lead with compassion. According to Jeff Weiner (ex-CEO of LinkedIn), compassion = empathy + action.

I took Jeff’s course, On Leadership, and found it very valuable. Read on to learn how you can apply Jeff’s principles to become a more compassionate leader.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve a shared objective. To lead, you need to have awareness, synthesis, and inspiration.


Be aware of yourself, your team, and the macro environment.


  1. Be a spectator to your own thoughts
    Develop a practice of observing your emotions instead of reacting to them.

  2. Compassion = empathy + action
    Build empathy by walking in someone else’s shoes. Combine your empathy with action to lead with compassion. Remember: The people you don't get along with often need your compassion the most.

  3. Identify your goals, strengths, and weaknesses
    Find your goals at the intersection of your passion and skills. Know your strengths and weaknesses to build a team that complements what you bring to the table.

To become more self-aware, practice mindfulness, get 360 feedback, and seek mentors.

Team awareness

  1. Work with people who dream big, get shit done, and have low ego
    Build a diverse team of people who dream big, get shit done (my words), and don't take themselves too seriously. Praise your team regularly if they’re doing great work.

  2. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply
    Practice active listening to create an environment where you and your team can seek the truth together.

  3. Label your feedback as an opinion, a strong suggestion, or a mandate
    If you're a leader, it’s useful to label your feedback as an opinion, a strong suggestion, or a mandate. Mandates are almost always a last resort.

Macro awareness

Understand your company’s competitive advantage. Look to ride major waves of change in technology, economy, politics, and the environment.


If you practice awareness, many things will compete for your attention. You need to connect the dots to create a vision, strategy, and set of values that can inspire your team.

Vision to values

Capture everything that your team cares about at the highest level, ideally on one page:

  1. Vision: The dream. Use it to inspire a shared sense of purpose.
    e.g. Create economic opportunity for everyone.

  2. Mission: The objective. Should be measurable, achievable, and inspirational.
    e.g. Connect the world's professionals to make them more productive.

  3. Customers: The customer segments whose needs you prioritize.
    e.g. LinkedIn members, advertisers, recruiters, salespeople.

  4. Customer problems: The job that your customer is hiring your product to do.
    e.g. Help members advance their careers.

  5. Strategy: The way your team will navigate the landscape to achieve your mission.
    e.g. Build the foundations, develop communities.

  6. Priorities: The prioritized list of actions that your team will focus on next. The fewer actions, the better.
    e.g. Talent, technology, trust, member/customer experience

  7. Objectives: How you’ll measure progress towards your priorities. Always think about the consequences of your metrics and how people might game them.

  8. Values: The principles that guide your day to day decision making.
    e.g. Members first, relationships matter, be open, act like an owner


FoCuS on executing your plan with the following best practices in mind:

  1. Fewer things done better
    The fewer things you identify as important, the easier it is for your team to internalize and act upon them.

  2. Communicate the right info to the right people at the right time
    When your team is scaling, you should be over-communicating. But keep in mind what audience should see what message to avoid information overload.

  3. Speed and quality of decision making
    Clarifying what each stakeholder’s role is can help you make decisions more efficiently. Use the RAPID framework to identify stakeholders who need to:

    Recommend a solution
    Agree or disagree with a solution (can veto)
    Perform the solution once decided
    Provide Input to a solution (cannot veto)
    Decide on a solution and commit the team

    Ideally, the person who recommends a solution also makes the decision. If your stakeholders can't align on a decision in five days, escalate cleanly.


You can synthesize better if you have the right tools at hand.

  1. Fly at the right altitude
    As you take on more management responsibilities, move from:
    Tactical -> Strategic
    Problem-solving -> Coaching

  2. Your calendar = your priorities
    At the beginning of every week, take a hard look at your calendar. Often it’s not aligned with your long-term priorities. Schedule no-meeting blocks during the day so that you have time to think.

  3. Create team rituals
    Create the right rituals and forums to helps you synthesize information. Examples include staff meetings, QBRs, product reviews, and team off-sites.


Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to do it.

Inspire people through the clarity of your vision, the courage of your convictions, and the crispness of your communication.

Clarity of vision

We already discussed defining a product vision, but you should also define a personal vision for yourself. Jeff's vision is to "expand the world's collective wisdom and compassion." Your personal vision will help you decide what to work on and what teams and companies to join.

Courage of convictions

The more you believe in something, the more effective you'll be at communicating it. People can sense whether you're authentic or not from a mile away.

Crispness of communication

When communicating:

  1. Be authentic
    What you believe, say, and do should be in sync. Show vulnerability to be authentic, but don’t go too far.

  2. Be transparent
    Transparent communication is a positive reinforcing loop. Create a team of owners by encouraging people to openly share their perspectives.

  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat
    Almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.

In addition to the above, remember the following when giving a public speech:

  1. Know your audience
    What job is the audience hiring your speech for? How will it help their lives?

  2. Know your message
    Avoid speaking about topics that you're not knowledgeable about.

  3. Know your passion
    Your energy is more important than your words. Think about what emotions you want your audience to feel after hearing your speech.

That’s it! I hope you found Jeff’s principles both valuable and easy to remember. The diagram below captures everything in one place.

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