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I wrote an article recently called The Modern Leader: Introducing the “Alpha Plus”. I was trying to describe the characteristics of a modern leader, who has many of the important and beneficial attributes of the Alpha Male or Female, PLUS compassion. The traditional Alpha, often dominant and aggressive, has now been found to be a less effective leader than the person who is able to feel and act on compassion as an integral part of their leadership of others.
To my delight, I was watching the ABC’s 7.30 Report this last week where Leigh Sales was interviewing Major General John Cantwell about his new book Leadership in Action. His book draws on his vast experience in leadership while in the Australian Army, including several tours in leadership positions in the Middle East, culminating in his being the Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East in 2010.
During the interview, he said a number of thought provoking statements regarding his efforts to be the most effective leader he could possibly be:

  • “I try to be a real human being.
  • “You can communicate and relate to people in ways that show you have some humanity.
  • “…you’ve got to make hard decisions…and you’ve got to sometimes be the disciplinarian, but as a general approach…open up a little bit, communicate, show you actually care about the people you’re trying to lead…”
  • “If you try to bully people into doing something, if you make them scared of you, if you impose consequences that are punishing, well, you might get compliance, but you won’t get loyalty.
  • “If you show people that you care about them, if you genuinely care about them as people, not just as a commodity, by showing them that you believe in them, giving them opportunities to excel by training them better, forgiving them their mistakes, helping them to learn to overcome their fears and concerns and helping them learn to be leaders themselves, you get loyalty.
  • “People who are loyal will do things that they otherwise would not do. They will choose to do what you want, you don’t have to tell them. It’s a really powerful idea.

While he didn’t use the word, a number of things Major General Cantwell said spoke to the compassion inherent in his leadership style. Professor Paul Gilbert, in his 2008 book The Compassionate Mind, defined compassion as “…an awareness and sensitivity to the suffering of others, with a motivation and commitment to try and alleviate it.
Cantwell refers to common humanity, openness, awareness and interest, care and concern, helpfulness, action, and forgiveness, all components of compassionate leadership.
Major General Cantwell exemplifies what it is to be an “Alpha Plus”!
To join the Charter for Compassion movement visit
For more information on Dr Steindl and the team of Psychologists  at Psychology Consultants visit

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