Leader: Nate Regier, Ph.D. is the CEO and founding owner of Next Element Consulting, a global leadership training firm dedicated to bringing more compassion to every workplace in the world.
Leadership lesson: For many leaders, openness is the last frontier for effectiveness. Leaders who are willing to connect emotionally with others, get vulnerable, and disclose their motives invite greater trust and authenticity among their teams.
Life lesson: Gain trust by being trustworthy in a way that matters to the people you care about.
Leadership model: Michael Meade, who said that the purpose of conflict is to create.
Leadership motto: Compassion is the practice of demonstrating through our behavior that people are valuable, capable, and responsible.
It has been my great fortune to meet leaders in the compassion at work movement over the last year through this post including the charismatic Nate Regier who blends his background in psychology and academics with his corporate experience to make an impact with the organizations he works with. I got to learn more about his journey, and the work he does in this interview.
Tell me about a time where you received the benefits of compassion from someone else.
When I was doing clinical psychology work, my supervisor was John Simmering, and he spent time with me weekly mentoring, coaching, and helping me develop as a clinician. My personality is one that likes to get things done and move on to the next thing. As a result, I don’t particularly enjoy difficult emotions, especially negative ones. John showed compassion many times with me during times of difficulty. When I made clinical mistakes, lost my cool with colleagues, or did things that embarrassed my organization, John was always willing to listen. He practiced compassionate accountability by balancing empathy and caring with responsibility for behavior, including my emotions. He would often say, “What is this situation trying to teach you?” John’s compassion helped me learn that emotions are incredibly valuable and need to be cared for, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
How did you become a compassionate leadership expert/trainer?
My passion for compassion has been evolving my whole life. I grew up in Zaire and Botswana, the son of Mennonite missionary parents. They role modeled compassion; not just the usual altruism and sympathy, but a real willingness to get alongside people and struggle together in a spirit of dignity towards a better life. My Ph.D. in clinical psychology followed by 13 years of working in mental health helped me really appreciate the nuances of interpersonal communication and behavior. Since starting our company in 2008, I have dedicated myself to researching and learning about the second by second interpersonal interactions that either convey compassion or invite drama. I am a certifying master trainer in the Process Communication Model, co-developer of the Leading Out of Drama training and coaching system, and also helped develop our newly launched enterprise-level framework called The Compassion Mindset.
Tell me about your work and clients.
Our clients range from individual leaders seeking professional development, to large corporations looking to bring more compassion into their culture. We do a combination of training, coaching, consulting, and research. More recently we’ve developed our own methodology for compassion and positive conflict and have trained a network of certified trainers who deliver our online Drama Resilience Assessment and accompanying Leading Out of Drama curricula. The Compassion Mindset is a program we are pitching to large companies that is an affordable, scalable, and practical way to teach compassion to anyone.
What is Compassionate Leadership?
Compassionate Leadership means applying compassion in our daily activities at work. Whether I’m casting a vision for the future, addressing a performance gap, or sharing delicate news with a client. By doing so, I reinforce that everyone is valuable, capable, and responsible.
Why is it important for the future of leadership?
Arthur Brooks, former chair of the American Enterprise Institute, estimates that about seven percent of the world profits from contempt. Hate, division, polarization, and prejudice are products of drama, which we define as “struggling against others, with or without awareness, to feel justified about harmful behavior.”
Compassion is the antidote. We need ways to harness the positive potential of conflict. We need a common language for building relationships that include and inspire instead of excluding and denigrating people.
The age of command and control leadership is over. The new era is about relationships and leveraging diversity towards a common goal. Compassion is the answer because compassion is what connects us and helps us get back on track when we lose our way.
Compassion isn’t selfless! That’s a message I want to get out there loud and clear. Selfless compassion is a set-up for burnout. Leaders have to take care of themselves and nurture their passions. Otherwise, they show up empty and are unable to serve others. True compassion involves equal attention to self and others.
What part does compassion play in your life outside of work?
Huge. Every day I use our tools to interact productively with my wife, kids, church members, community boards, and on social media. These are life skills for healthy, productive relationships so I take them with me everywhere I go. My oldest daughter, Lauren, just got engaged. I’m so excited for her and absolutely adore her fiance. Recently while reflecting on formative influences in her life, Lauren shared her appreciation for how we raised her, specifically mentioning some of the compassion tools we teach at Next Element. She’s only 22, so that was quite an unexpected gift.