Leadership Strengths: Compassionate & Humble

Treading carefully across the frozen ground, the man hurried down the dark street, hunching his shoulders and turning his collar up against the sharp winter wind. Approaching his destination, he could just make out another shadowy figure waiting by the west gate, outlined against the white backdrop of the house.


Drawing close to the other man, he nodded in greeting and broke the pre-dawn silence with a quiet, “G’morning.” The other man returned the greeting, and for awhile they stood there in silence, gazing at the large house on the other side of the fence and shuffling their feet against the cold. After awhile they began talking, just to take their minds off the freezing temperature.


“Gonna be first in line, huh?”

“Yup. Never even went to sleep.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

“Should be getting light in a few hours.”

“Yeah. I hope the sun brings some warmth with it.”

“I sure hope so. I don’t know if I’ll survive in this cold until 1 pm!”


As the hours slid by, the two men kept up a conversation until they noticed a white-jacketed waiter approaching them across the lawn. To their surprise he offered them coffee and muffins, which they gladly accepted, gratefully curling their stiff fingers around the cups of hot coffee. More time went by, then as the first rays of sunshine began breaking over the buildings, another man approached them from the house. This time the visitors were offered an invitation to come inside and eat a full breakfast with none other than the man they had come hoping to see.


The shocked men, hours early for the annual New Years reception, readily accepted the invitation and entered the gate. Following the man up the steps, they looked at each other with wide eyes before entering the White House, where they were greeted warmly by President Herbert Hoover himself.


Never in their lives had they anticipated personally meeting the president outside of the handshaking line they had gotten up so early to be in. Now here they were, not only speaking with the president face to face, but—at his personal invitation—joining him for breakfast inside his house. As they were guided through the White House toward the china room, one man leaned toward the other and whispered, “my wife is never going to believe this!”


Early on January 1st, 1931, President Herbert Hoover looked out a window of the White House and noticed two men waiting outside in the freezing cold. “Bring them in,” he ordered, “breakfast for two more.” No matter that they were hours early for the public reception traditionally held on the afternoon of New Years Day, or that the president was just that—the president. As a compassionate and humble leader, President Hoover immediately showed concern for the shivering visitors and didn’t think twice about sharing his morning meal with them.


Compassionate and humble leaders possess a sincere respect and concern for others and are able to act with empathy, understanding, and kindness. They don’t consider themselves better or more important than anyone else, and they tend to demonstrate great generosity. Recognizing the innate value of every person, these leaders pursue justice and equality for all, leveraging their position and influence to improve the wellbeing of everyone around them.


How about you, are you a leader who demonstrates compassion and humility? How can you improve and leverage your own strengths in order to become a more compassionate and humble leader? By leveraging and applying your leadership strengths, you can become an even more effective leader who:


  • Possesses sincere respect and concern for others
  • Acts with empathy, understanding, and kindness
  • Does not consider yourself more important than others
  • Pursues justice and equality for all



This is the seventh in a series of eight articles highlighting important leadership strengths demonstrated by some of the world’s most powerful and influential leaders—former United States Presidents. I feature these same strengths in my inspirational presentation, Presidential Leadership, designed to encourage and equip participants to identify, leverage, and apply their own leadership strengths. Please stay tuned as we look at one more area of leadership strengths next week!



NielsenCopyright © 2013 by Dan Nielsen – www.dannielsen.com

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership – www.nihcl.com

America’s Healthcare Leaders – www.americashealthcareleaders.com

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