ASA 10 | Ruthless Compassion


A great leader gives tough love with compassionate outcomes. Alex digs deep into what this looks like as he shares about the power of ruthless compassion in three insights. One, compassion is about the three words – compass, passion, and ion. Two, to have ruthless compassion is being a servant leader. Lastly, agreements are handled by keeping them, renegotiating them, or unmaking them.

Discover how these things tie together and learn how to become accountable and how to disagree agreeably with your team.

Listen to the podcast here:

Power Of Ruthless Compassion

Although ethical influence is central to our discussions, you and I will also explore other fascinating and important topics such as growing relationship capital, virtual presentation strategies, finding joint venture partnerships, principles of karmic marketing and content repurposing strategies, just to name a few.

In this episode, you’ll learn three key insights which I believe are critical to making you a highly skilled ethical influencer. You’ll discover how compassion is about three words, compass, passion and ion. You’ll learn how ruthless compassion is about servant leadership. That’s a word first coined by Robert Greenleaf and he wrote a book about it.

You’ll also learn how to handle agreements. You keep them, you renegotiate them or you unmake them. Please read carefully because this episode could have a significant impact on how you can quickly and easily win the hearts of others.

Three Words In Compassion

I remember I was on stage and speaking in front of 500 other thought leaders, entrepreneurs and small business owners. I wrote down the word compassion. I asked everyone, “What does that word say?” Sheepishly, they said, “Compassion.” I asked, “I can’t hear you.” They said, “Compassion.” I said, “Can you say it one more time, so I know you got it?” They said, “Compassion.”

It was a little scary because these were business leaders. It’s not like I’m the Dalai Lama talking about compassion, which is his favorite word when he’s lecturing or writing. That word, if you take a look at it and you unpack it, really has three words inside it.

The first word is compass. What’s a compass? A compass is knowing which direction to go, whether it’s identifying your true north or figuring out where to go with east, west, south or any other direction you want to go. If you’re going east and you really meant to go west, then you’re going in the wrong direction enthusiastically, actually, passionately.

The second word is passion. That’s in that word, compassion. What’s passion? Where compass is about your head or your mind, passion is about the heart. Many people feel that passion is what they need and I disagree. I don’t know if you believe this or not, but I know plenty of passionate people who are unhappy.

I know plenty of passionate people who go in the wrong direction enthusiastically, actually, passionately. I know lots of people who are borderline passionately suicidal because even though their heart is driving them, they don’t have the compass to go in the direction they need to go.

The third word inside of compassion is the word ion. Why is ion so important? To me, if you look at a metaphor, the ion is the smallest substance that we can study, ionic. The ion is that small action that you take. You’re thinking big with passion, but you’re taking a small action.

[bctt tweet=”Accountability is your most reliable path to execution.” via=”no”]

Think big, act small because once you act, you may not get the result you want. Many times the result is none of your business, but in taking another action, then another action and making small mistakes along the way, you will finally go in the right direction enthusiastically. That’s where compassion comes in.

With compassion, I believe that accountability is what the derivative ends up becoming. When you’re accountable, you have the compass, the passion and ionic action that you’re taking, then accountability is your most reliable path to execution intelligence. Think of that word “to execute.” CEOs are fired when they don’t execute.

If you build up an execution intelligence where certain systems work for you, certain rituals work for you, not just in business, but also as a parent, as a spouse, as an ex-spouse, as a child if your parents are still living or as a civic leader. You want execution intelligence, so you get to do the same things again and again and get extraordinary results.

The word accountability comes from the Roman Senate during the Roman days. I’ve been to Rome and stood right where the Senate was once in progress only several thousand years ago. Accountability means nothing more than showing up. It’s the ability to be accounted for. Back then, all the senators were men, but they would stand up and they were accounted for so they could vote on laws or in the direction that Rome was going.

Compassion is a way where you have the direction to compass, passion through emotion, and heart and ion where you take small steps to make sure that you have the execution intelligence that you can repeat again and again. When someone is accountable, that means they’re showing up for the task, they take account-ability, their ability to be accounted for and that action that they’re responsible for. Responsibility is your ability to respond and it makes you a better leader and a better ethical influencer.

Responsibilities Of A Leader

The Alexism for this episode is one that I borrowed from one of my former mentors. He’s no longer living on Earth, but he was the CEO of Herman Miller. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Herman Miller, but it is a furniture design company. Chances are you’ve sat in a Herman Miller chair, which they are very famous for. I’m sitting in one right now.

Max De Pree wrote many books. Leadership Is An Art is one of my favorite books. What I learned from Max De Pree is that the leader’s number one job is to define reality. That’s what I learned of the three responsibilities of a leader. He said, “The number one job is to define reality.” In other words, not where we’re going, not point B, but define point A.

I live in California. If I think I’m flying to New York’s JFK Airport from SFO, which is San Francisco International, but I’m really flying out from San Diego International Airport, I’ve got a problem. It’s because my GPS isn’t going to tell me where I’m going unless it knows where I’m at. Your human GPS system is one that’s not tracked from a satellite, it’s from your experience. It’s from knowing and having a level of execution intelligence of reliably knowing where you are to be accounted for where point A is.

Think about that if you do coaching or consulting. Many times, your clients think that they need to be where they want to be, point B, their vision, but they don’t spend as much time focusing on where they are. They don’t define reality and I learned that from Max De Pree, define reality. It’s great advice especially if you’re a parent.

ASA 10 | Ruthless Compassion

Leadership Is an Art

The second responsibility of a leader is something I learned from Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan. He said, “The most important thing as an entrepreneur is to protect your confidence.” I’m going to say protecting confidences of your team, of your vendors, your suppliers and everyone around you including yourself.

If you can protect your confidence and you can define reality, then you end up having something that many other leaders don’t have. You become that servant leader. The Dalai Lama talks about it. I’ve been blessed to have shared the stage with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, but it’s not a spiritual concept. It’s about having a compass, having passion and step-by-step ionic strategy and creating the execution intelligence in your business and to account for that.

Many thanks to Dan who is still living and I still learned from as Strategic Coach and he said protecting confidence is so important. Think about that. How can you protect your confidence? What rituals can protect confidence? If you reprimand your team publicly, you’re not protecting their confidence. If you’re reprimanding, shaming or blaming your kids, if you have any, you’re not protecting their confidence. There are certain strategies and techniques to do that.

The third responsibility of a leader is to communicate compassionately. I learned that from the Dalai Lama. He’s come from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Buddha arguably was a servant leader, as was Gandhi, as was Jesus, as was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m sure you can think of many other compassionate leaders or servant leaders. To communicate compassionately means to communicate in a way where the receiver is getting you and they feel gotten. You’re the sender and they’re the receiver. When someone says, “You get me,” that’s communicating compassionately.

The Alexism for this episode is that the three responsibilities of a leader is number one, define reality, thank you, Max De Pree. Number two is protecting confidences, thank you, Dan Sullivan. Number three, communicating with compassion, thank you, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Why this is so important is because I borrowed from great thought leaders, servant leaders and influencers of the past to come up with that Alexism. I’m not going to say that’s mine. In fact, there are very few things that are unique. There are ways to look at things a little differently.

Marcel Proust said true discovery is not seeking new landscapes. It is seeking a landscape with a new pair of eyes. I’m paraphrasing, but it’s true. If you want to be a responsible ethical influencer, define reality. What’s point A? Number two, protect confidence, not only yours but others. Number three, when you communicate, communicate with compassion.

Remember, compass, passion, ion, head, heart, hands. What? Why? How? Compass is the what, passion is the why and ion is that little step you take in action until you find the path toward execution intelligence. It’s a great concept.

[bctt tweet=”Compassionate leaders are servant leaders.” via=”no”]


I want to talk about agreements because when you’re communicating compassionately, when you’re protecting confidence and you’re defining reality, many times it involves having an agreement with someone else. Many people I know don’t know the three considerations of an agreement.

There are three ways to handle an agreement. The first way is to keep it. You set a date. Let’s say that’s the when. You set a task, that’s the what. You set a person, you were someone else and that’s the who knows. Those are the three considerations. Who’s doing it, what’s getting done and when is it due? One way to handle an agreement is to simply keep it. If you do this and you do it often, then there’s a very little misunderstanding.

Number two, you don’t always have to keep an agreement because sometimes life happens or there are unseen forces. I’m sure you’ve experienced them and you get to renegotiate the agreement. The who could change, but the what probably stays the same.

Typically, the most renegotiated part or consideration of an agreement of who, what, when is the when. You take the deadline into the future. My good friend, Lisa Nichols, doesn’t like the word deadline, so she’ll say the when-date and I agree with her.

You can renegotiate it. Usually, there’s an agreement with yourself and an agreement with one or other people. You’re renegotiating it before that when-date or the deadline. If you renegotiate after the deadline, then you’re out of integrity. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

You can keep an agreement, you can renegotiate an agreement and then the third way to handle an agreement is to unmake it. What does that mean? To unmake it means you no longer create the agreement because something has changed. Either the agreement is obsolete or maybe there’s a new agreement that’s popped up, but it’s always before the deadline.

Otherwise, you’re out of integrity. You don’t wait for the deadline to come up and then you call up the people who are involved and tell them, “I’m going to unmake this thing.” What’s the first thing that they’re going to think? They’re going to think, “Why are you unmaking it after the time we agreed to?”

Those are the keys. Keeping it is before or on the deadline. Re-negotiating it is before the deadline. Unmaking it all together is always before the deadline. For example, unmaking an agreement with my daughter, Breanna, would have been, “I agreed to take you to rowing practice in the morning.” The rowing practice happens at 8:30 AM on a Saturday.

Let’s say that she gets a call where one of her friends wants her to do a sleepover and this happens a lot. She asked me, “Can I sleep over at my friend’s place?” I say, “Sure, but that means we’re going to unmake the agreement we made. I’m not taking you to the crew,” which is rowing. She says, “Yeah, I’ll get a ride there.”

ASA 10 | Ruthless Compassion

Ruthless Compassion: The team that gets along the best usually outperforms the team with the most talent.


We’re unmaking me driving her. We’re not renegotiating because otherwise, I will still take her. We’re not keeping it, otherwise, I will still take her. We’re unmaking it and I’ve been absolved of the duty and the responsibility and I can sleep in on that Saturday morning. With agreements, there are three considerations. Who is in charge of the agreement? Who’s the champion? Number two, what is the agreement? Number three, when is it due?

If you put three columns down and you can do this on a Google doc and whoever’s involved in that. If everyone knows that we can keep it, renegotiate it or unmake it, you will not only live a more integrity-centered life, but there will be a lot less stress and worry and a lot less overwhelm where you don’t have to keep track of things. I hope that makes sense and I hope you put that into action.

Here’s what I know. The team that gets along the best usually outperforms the team with the most talent. I remember one of the Olympic basketball teams where we recruited the best basketball players from America, and we lost because the team did not get along. Between the coaching and the playmaking, it just didn’t gel. Yet, pound for pound, person by person, they had the most talent, but they lost and it was embarrassing.

The goal in any type of communication for ethical influence is to have the ability to disagree agreeably. It’s not about arguing, it’s about debating. Disagree agreeably and define what the agreement is, who’s in charge and when it’s going to happen. Remember your responsibilities to define it, to protect the confidences of the people involved, and to communicate compassionately and then you can keep it, renegotiate or unmake it. I hope that makes sense.

Here’s a quick review of the specific insights that you and I rediscovered in this episode. Compassion is about direction, which is your head and the what. Passion is the heart and the why. Ion is the action, that small step, ionic action so that you don’t go in the wrong direction enthusiastically.

Ruthless compassion is about outcomes and it’s about disagreeing agreeably. If you’ve had a mentor ever in your life who you were blessed enough to have ruthless compassion towards you, they don’t let you off the hook. If you didn’t renegotiate on time, if you didn’t unmake an agreement on time, they are ruthlessly compassionate. That’s not an oxymoron. That’s having tough love with compassionate outcomes.

I want you to think about what ruthless compassion looks like, not only for you and yourself, between the agreements you have with yourself each day, whatever rituals or whatever routines you go through, but having it with others. It’s very difficult to have it with others unless you first have it with yourself.

The third insight is the way you handle agreements. When you handle with integrity, then you create execution intelligence that you can duplicate again and again, keeping them, renegotiating or unmaking them. Remember, these insights can only work for you if you work them.

Speaking of reviews, which we just did, I want you to go to and then type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment, the biggest insight you experienced from this episode. You can do it right now. You can do it in the review section.

[bctt tweet=”To discover is not about seeking new landscapes. It is seeking a landscape with a new pair of eyes.” via=”no”]

When you do it, iTunes will ask you to rate the episode. I hope I’ve earned five stars from you. If you’ve already done it, iTunes won’t allow you to do it again. I thank you. You can write your distinction or discovery on an index card or a sheet of paper. Go ahead if you haven’t done it, declare your one big takeaway in the iTunes review section. It will take three minutes out of your day but what you declare publicly could provide you with a lifetime of learning.

I have one final gift to give you in honor of this tenth episode. All Selling Aside is dedicated to coaches, consultants and service professionals who hate to sell. One of the cool tools that I’ve developed, and it’s taken me 25 years to develop, but it will take you 25 minutes to consume is a book and it’s called Alexisms.

Typically in each episode, I have an Alexism. The Alexisms is a book all about useful lessons from a recovering serial entrepreneur. You can learn from my mistakes instead of making your own. You can instantly download it at It’s available on Amazon for $20, but why pay for something when you can get the eBook for free?

I do hope our paths cross again. The show is dedicated to making ethical influence within your reach so that you can achieve and even exceed your sales potential. Selling can be fun if you make it fun through storytelling.

Please do whatever it takes to join me in the next episode because our topic will be that experience is not the best teacher. If you’ve heard that, I’m going to argue and debate that that’s not true. Experience is not the best teacher. I encourage you to invite a friend or bring a study buddy because there’s no such thing as a self-made success. Come with someone so that you can interact and be responsible for what you learn. I can’t wait to connect with you then.

Important Links: