On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks to Alex from DX Learning about compassionate leadership.

Some Conversation Highlights:

So when talking about compassionate leadership, emotions aren’t good. Just suck it up, fuzzball. It’s okay. Tomorrow’s another day. That’s how I was brought up. So what I modeled in my business was invincibility and I’m a hero. Not what I thought through bad intentions, just that’s all that I knew.

What about six weeks ago? Four, five, five, six weeks ago, I was driving to work. We’d gone through hell as a business, and just gone through hell. As a business and as a father and a husband, just a lot that we’re dealing with. In fact, later on top of that, my book publisher just went bankrupt. So I just lost a whole bunch of money there, but just a lot to deal with.

So driving to work and body shut down, brain shut down, cold sweats. Had to pull over. Thought I was going to crash. Just sat there like, oh, my god. This is the worst feeling I’ve ever had. Came home, sat in the bed. All the negative thoughts, want to get a divorce, want to fire everybody, close my business down, negativity everywhere. So I feel this is an extreme burnout, and probably 44 years of just dealing with shit and not doing what we’re talking about today.

Tune in for the full conversation.

Listening time: 26 minutes


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Alex Draper
Founder & CEO DX Learning

Alex has been working in experiential learning design and delivery since 2002. In 2015, Alex started DX Learning Solutions as a way to build upon his passion for the EQ part of leadership development, and is now on a mission to shape organizations worth working for by training managers from top to bottom to think and behave more inclusively and lead with your values.


Announcer: 00:00 This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense. Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup,

William Tincup: 00:33 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily Podcast. Today we have Alex on from DX Learning, and our topic today is fantastic. It’s if leaders can’t have compassion for themselves, how can they have compassion for others? Alex has been on the show before. Love him. He’s just super bright and he’s got a lot of wisdom. I can’t wait to see where he is going to take us with this. So Alex, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and DX?

Alex Draper: 01:04 Thanks William, for having me part two and having me back. Appreciate that. Alex, CEO and founder DX. DX is on a mission to wipe out bad leadership. We’re doing our best to deliver, well, design and deliver the most effective leadership training that we can get our hands on.

William Tincup: 01:24 So if leaders can’t have compassion for themselves, so let’s start with that. How do we know? How do they know? Okay. So how do they know if they’re indexed or over indexed or under indexed on compassion for themselves.

Alex Draper: 01:46 All-

William Tincup: 01:47 Because what I immediately think of, and it’s an old cliche, is you’ve got to stand in front of a mirror naked and look yourself in the mirror and say, I love you. Right?

Alex Draper: 02:03 Or you look in-

William Tincup: 02:03 Warts and all, right?

Alex Draper: 02:03 Or you look in the mirror, William, there’s a couple of pieces that you like. I don’t quite like that or that needs improvement, but point being is you look in the mirror and the reflection of what you see is a reflection of reality versus any figment of imagination. Yeah.

William Tincup: 02:20 Right.

Alex Draper: 02:21 Yeah. It’s a good start. Thanks for getting us on at least a metaphor to grab a hold up. So how to have compassion for yourself? So let’s talk about the problem that we got then. It’s half the problem that when we look in the mirror, either there’s pieces of it that we’re unhappy about, but we’re not talking about it, and/or we’re looking in the mirror and the reflection that we see is actually not what others see.

William Tincup: 02:51 Oh, yeah. Both are genius. I would say the latter. For me, I would say the latter. I’m probably overly critical about certain things about me and my personality, where other people wouldn’t see that or don’t see that.

Alex Draper: 03:09 So is the art of having compassion for yourself fair for, are we talking about vulnerability here or my ability to be it? The opposite of vulnerability is fear. So courage to speak up and be honest and open and have compassion for myself to talk to myself, in order to talk to my C team about the reality, versus the opposite of courage is fear, fearing talking to yourself. I talk to myself a lot. I literally talk to myself every day.

William Tincup: 03:42 Yeah, me too.

Alex Draper: 03:43 It helps me. It’s like, that was shit. I can’t believe I did that. Are you kidding me? Why did you do that, you idiot?

William Tincup: 03:51 That’s exactly the conversations. It’s when you start arguing with yourself, that’s when you know that you’ve gone too far.

Alex Draper: 03:56 I’ve heard that’s actually therapeutic, but having the courage to talk and ask the questions, I believe this is part of what we’re talking about here. If you don’t do that, you bottle it all up. You talk to no one about nothing, and we call it the stiff upper lip in the UK. I’m American now, by the way. By the way, fun fact from last time that we spoke. I got my citizenship and I am now a fully fledged American.

William Tincup: 04:26 Oh, wow. Okay.

Alex Draper: 04:27 It’s cool.

William Tincup: 04:28 So dual citizens? You can go back and forth?

Alex Draper: 04:30 Dual, British and US. Yeah.

William Tincup: 04:33 Two passports. Awesome.

Alex Draper: 04:35 Which just means I can just pick and choose. If I’m going to one country that doesn’t like America, I’m British. If I going to one country doesn’t like British I’m American.

William Tincup: 04:41 It’s exactly the way that I would play it.

Alex Draper: 04:42 Win win.

William Tincup: 04:44 I want to go to Cuba. British.

Alex Draper: 04:47 Done. Yeah. Is that what this is about? Is there a piece to compassion, which is the art of vulnerability with both yourself, and of course, those that you work with.

William Tincup: 05:03 Absolutely. To me, I think being… Again, vulnerability, what was a Brene Brown that said, “The first thing you asked from someone else, that’s the last thing that you give someone else.” So I think being vulnerable with yourself, and some of that’s critique. Some of that’s being honest. Just, again, being honest with yourself about what you did, what you said, how you felt. Then turning that into something useful rather than something that tears you down.

Alex Draper: 05:39 Agreed. As you were speaking, let’s Google compassion. Dictionary, here we go. Let’s just get this as a conversation starter. So compassion, sympathetic, pity, and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. The start of this conversation was having sympathy and pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of me, because if I can’t do that for myself, is this the right message? If I can’t do it for myself, if I can’t have pity on myself, then how can I show that for others? It’s like you’re faking it. You’re almost asking of others that you’re not willing to do yourself.

William Tincup: 06:26 Right. Well, and the thing is, if you, we will get to the doing it for others, again, you’ve got to practice. Some of this is muscle memory. You’re building into, here’s what I’m learning when I have sympathy for myself. You’re learning. It feels like, to me, you’re being vulnerable, you’re talking to yourself, you’re looking in the mirror, you’re doing all these things to learn about yourself, so that then you can then bring that to bear with your teammates and with people that you work with. That’s like, okay, here’s what I’m learning about myself.

You can even validate that. It’s like, here’s what I’m learning about myself. I find myself not speaking up enough in meetings. Do y’all see that? Do I have a warped perception of that? Getting other people to go, no, actually you’re pretty good. Okay. Well, good. It’s like body dysmorphia. Okay, I had that wrong. Cool.

Alex Draper: 07:33 To that point though, how can you have sympathy as something that you don’t know exists?

William Tincup: 07:40 That’s right.

Alex Draper: 07:41 So compassion for myself means I’m being open with myself about my own, going back to the definition here, my own sufferings and my own misfortunes. I’m talking to myself about them. I’m cognizant of them. I’m wary that they’re happening. Hopefully some self heal there and/or talking to your better half. You recognize it, because the opposite of that is the hero mentality, the invincibility. Which is bullshit, because we don’t need any freaking more heroes. I just wrote a blog on this. It was, do you remember Mad Max 3: Thunder Dome?

William Tincup: 08:18 Oh yeah, of course.

Alex Draper: 08:20 We don’t need another hero in Thunder Dome.

We got to get rid of all this crap of heroes and-

William Tincup: 08:29 Well, it’s machismo, right?

Alex Draper: 08:30 Yeah.

William Tincup: 08:30 Mostly this is male centric, that I’ve got to appear invincible, and again, flawless. We do this in public politicians. Well, we do this with leaders in general. We want them to be perfect. It’s like, well, they’re human beings. No one’s perfect.

Alex Draper: 08:53 Yeah.

William Tincup: 08:54 So it’s like almost set them up for failure. I love the openness, as you took this with sympathy and pity. You took this to having a frankness or an openness with yourself, which also begets a forgiveness, a layer of forgiveness. Okay. Well, you know what? Like you said earlier, okay, I made a mistake. I didn’t do that. Well, you know what? You don’t wallow in it. You acknowledge it and go, okay, I could have done that better. All right. Well, I forgive you, and you move on.

Alex Draper: 09:28 Right. I think the key to that last sentence is the recognition. I screwed up, and it’s okay. By doing that, you are triggering the growth mindset of you’re not always right, you don’t have to be always right, you’re not perfect, you’re never going to be perfect, and you’re just as flawless and imperfect as everyone else. Just that recognition allows you the bandwidth and the brain capacity to go, I can sympathize with myself.

Going back to our topic of compassion, you’ve got to have compassion for yourself in order to have compassion for others. If you’re not open to it, I think that’s what we’re getting at here, is if you’re not open to it, open up your own little can of worms and your own imperfections, and recognizing that the fact that you screw up and you do things wrong. You do have misfortunes, and you’re probably suffering, because we all suffer. Then how on earth can you ask a good question of… So flipping that now to other people, right?

William Tincup: 10:33 Right.

Alex Draper: 10:34 You wouldn’t be authentic. You’d be asking people, hey, what’s going on in your life and how are you doing? It wouldn’t come across as authentic. Again, it’s not about the words you say, it’s about how you say them. They’d see through that BS. Alex is just doing his tick box. Yeah.

William Tincup: 10:51 He’s just checking off the list. He’s going through the motions. It’s almost like you could start, as a leader, you could start that with a story. It’s like, I made a mistake yesterday. I recognize that I made this mistake and I wanted to learn from it. So I did that and I inventoried it, and I forgave myself.

Alex Draper: 11:12 Yep.

William Tincup: 11:13 Telling that story opens up the door for a teammate or someone that you work with to then go, okay, well, if you’re admitting that you made a mistake, it’s okay for me to admit that I’ve made a mistake.

Alex Draper: 11:29 Yeah. I think this is the crux. This conversation is don’t expect of others, what you’re not willing to do yourself. Then on that note, here’s a story that’s happened quite recently, just to prove the point of how difficult this is.

I started a business seven ago to wipe out bad leadership. So I teach this stuff. I believe this stuff. I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown, as you said at the start. I espouse it. I was brought up in the UK with a family where the stiff upper lip, don’t talk about your emotions. Emotions aren’t good. Just suck it up, fuzzball. It’s okay. Tomorrow’s another day. That’s how I was brought up. So what I modeled in my business was invincibility and I’m a hero. Not what I thought through bad intentions, just that’s all that I knew.

What about six weeks ago? Four, five, five, six weeks ago, I was driving to work. We’d gone through hell as a business, and just gone through hell. As a business and as a father and a husband, just a lot that we’re dealing with. In fact, later on top of that, my book publisher just went bankrupt. So I just lost a whole bunch of money there, but just a lot to deal with.

So driving to work and body shut down, brain shut down, cold sweats. Had to pull over. Thought I was going to crash. Just sat there like, oh, my god. This is the worst feeling I’ve ever had. Came home, sat in the bed. All the negative thoughts, want to get a divorce, want to fire everybody, close my business down, negativity everywhere. So I feel this is an extreme burnout, and probably 44 years of just dealing with shit and not doing what we’re talking about today.

So I just basically had a shield between all the stuff that I was dealing with. Even with my wife, she’d agree, I’m not good at this stuff. It all came to a head that five weeks ago, six weeks ago, when I was driving to work and just, boom, total shut. Here’s the crux of this, which is on Monday, the day it happened. In a team meeting at 10, I was like, this is really bad. If I don’t tell my team what I’ve gone through, how on earth can they help? Okay, you got to do it, Alex.

11 o’clock came by. I didn’t do it. Again, courage versus fear. Fear, I didn’t have the courage to say what I needed to say. Wednesday, team meeting. I’m like, going to do it. I’m going to do it. Didn’t do it. I’m like, crap, I’m getting worse. It’s just getting worse. So I sent an email on Thursday to the team, just highlighting all the context of what’s happened up to this point with some things that they didn’t know about, in terms of my family back in the UK. Just some stuff that they didn’t know, which led up to me probably burning out and just having that issue.

Didn’t expect any replies. I think the subject matter was, it’s better to know then not to know. The emails I got back was holy… I think one that resonates with me immensely was, “Alex, I thought you were invincible. I’m like who the hell can deal with all the stuff that you deal with and not show any ounce of emotion. I thought you were some sort of monster, but thank you. You’ve now just opened up the door, that the fact that if you are not invincible, then sure as hell I ain’t invisible invincible.”

That demonstrates it took me 44 years to have this, to have compassion for myself. To look at all the things I’ve gone through and realize, it’s okay. There’s shit that we’re all dealing with, to face it, talk to myself about it. More importantly, tell the others, here’s what I’m going through. The immediate reaction was, how can I help? So that goes to how can we help others unless we know that they need help in the first place?

William Tincup: 15:16 Well, what I love about that story is your own struggle, you knew the problem. Obviously, all this stuff, you had insight into how you got here. You knew the problem. It was getting over the hump of then letting other people into your world, into that part of your world.

Then again, great leaders, back to the stuff that you know all too well, great leaders, that’s what they do. They let people into their world. There is no this idea that they walk on water. They’re trusting. They trust themselves. They’re confident in themselves. Even in moments where they’re not confident, they’ll actually acknowledge that they’re not confident, which is confidence.

Alex Draper: 16:09 There’s your Brene Brown courage, right?

William Tincup: 16:11 Right.

Alex Draper: 16:11 The courage that I don’t have all the answers. I’m just as human as you guys are. Let’s work on this together. I think that’s the change that we’re seeing out there, in your industry especially. We’re leaving, whatever you want to call it, resignation, quit, blah, blah, blah, who cares. We are realizing the things that we want more of. I think we’ve all had this, huh, compassion for myself. I now know what I want, I know what I value, and if my boss and or organization doesn’t match my values, well, I’m out of here. Humanness is, I think, part of what we expect in organizations now. So I want my boss to be vulnerable. I want my boss to have compassion for me. I want my boss to treat me as the human that I am, and also to be human themselves.

William Tincup: 17:07 I think you’re spot on from a candidate’s perspective. I think employees too, so we can deal with both of them. Candidates, you don’t know the company. You’re not there. So you’re applying for job, you get a bunch of interviews, you go through the process. What are things that they should be asking? If we could wave magic wand, what are questions? We’ll just go deal with some of your employees, candidates you’re going to hire. What should it be asking of you, as it relates to this?

Alex Draper: 17:42 That’s an awesome question. So if I was going back 20 years or so, and I’m looking at my first job or maybe second job, and I’m sitting there with the recruiter and/or the manager, whatever I’m going to work for, my one question would be this, because I wish I’d asked this question 22 years ago. Look, I know that culture basically for all intents and purposes is a mirror of leadership, and leadership is really how leaders think and behave. Tell me about your culture through the lens of my first boss. How am I going to be treated and walk me through what that feels like?

William Tincup: 18:27 I love that. Yeah. I’d probably ask questions like, what mistakes have they made? If you can’t tell me about one of your leader’s mistakes, then either you don’t know, which that could be true, or it’s not been communicated.

Alex Draper: 18:46 Yeah.

William Tincup: 18:48 Houston, we already have a problem. Right?

Alex Draper: 18:53 Yeah.

William Tincup: 18:53 Right?

Alex Draper: 18:53 Yeah. We leave bosses, we don’t leave organizations. We join the company for the allure of that company, whatever that is. Of course your experience in the company is your boss. So it’s, tell me about my boss. Tell me about what are you doing as an organization to ensure that they are leading in a way in which you are telling me about the culture of you have all these values and behaviors. How do I know that my first boss will lead like this? That’s what you’re telling me, but how do I know?

William Tincup: 19:28 I want examples.

Alex Draper: 19:29 Exactly. Yes.

William Tincup: 19:30 I want examples of sympathy, of pity. I want examples of vulnerability. I want examples of trusting and compassion. I want examples of these things. So in real terms, hey, you want me to be a react developer? Got it. Test me. We’ll figure all that stuff out. We’ll agree on money. Okay, done. Got it. I’ll work remotely in Montana. Got it. Done.

However, before we sign on the dotted line, there’s some things that I care about. We almost need to build, I don’t know, manifest is too strong of a language, but it’s almost like the list of questions that candidates should be asking of leaders. It’s not of leaders, it’s of their actions that are represented by leaders.

Alex Draper: 20:19 Listeners, especially those in the candidate section looking for a job, or on LinkedIn looking for a job because their boss sucks right now, which is a lot of us-

William Tincup: 20:30 Yeah, yeah.

Alex Draper: 20:31 So to William’s point, I think this is what I personally did two and a half years ago, is I reevaluated what I value. I value my family. I value home time. I’ve changed a lot of myself, both as a leader of my organization and myself to realign myself to my family. Write down on a piece of paper what you value. Then how in order for that value to be lived, what would your boss have to do? The behaviors, or to your point, actions that if you value vulnerability or you value work flexibility, therefore, what does your boss have to do? They have to trust you.

If you value flexibility, you want a hybrid environment or work from home, well, what’s the boss going to have to do to do that? Trust. I want to be entrusted. Now tell me how my first boss is going to trust me. So just write down what you value. Write down, link that to specific actions that you would need from your first boss or the manager in order for that to happen, and then think of a question you could ask to test whoever that indeed is going to be lived out in the company that you’re interviewing with.

William Tincup: 21:42 Yeah. I love that because it’s the expression. How is this expressed? Give me some examples of how this is expressed. Again, you can pick anything that’s important to you, again, getting back to your values. At that particular moment, if what you value as you age or as you change or different life circumstances, et cetera, what you value might change. Okay, cool. Well, you’re going to be doing those inventories and reflections. So as that happens and you’re looking at jobs, you’re going to want to put yourself in more of a situation where you’re going to thrive and you’re going to thrive with people that already have a shared values.

Alex Draper: 22:26 Yep. Agreed.

William Tincup: 22:28 So last question. For this particular podcast, last question. How are you seeing this play out with the people in training? Not names or anything like that. As you’re going into a company and you’re talking to them about vulnerability or compassion or empathy or sympathy, et cetera, how are they receiving that now?

Alex Draper: 23:02 It’s a slow and arduous process to go from where we were two and a half years ago, pre pandemic, which is we are a results only country. Right?

William Tincup: 23:16 Right.

Alex Draper: 23:17 So command and control, get results, shareholders come first. I don’t know. It’s a sweeping generalization. For all intents and purposes, trust me, I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, the result beat the people.

William Tincup: 23:28 Right.

Alex Draper: 23:32 Thank you to the young people. Thank you young people listening. We are seeing them tell us that that is not cool anymore.

William Tincup: 23:39 Right.

Alex Draper: 23:44 I’m seeing more desire, more want to look at the soft, which I think soft is a new hard, but regardless of that, the softer skills. Compassion. Like what I did with my team, just amazing. I’m like, damn, I can’t believe it took me 44 years to do this. We’re seeing more of it. I’m seeing people who are more entrenched, got more gray hair than you and I, start to understand that, holy crap, that the way I have led people is not working as much as it used to.

So there’s both. There’s a recognition of change, not everywhere, but I’m seeing it. So it’s slow and we’re getting there. Especially younger companies are already putting empathy as a value of theirs and expecting their leaders to demonstrate so. Some of the older companies, of course, a large fortune 500, it takes years to change them. There’s change in the air. There really is.

William Tincup: 24:40 Yeah. I’m not sure… I want to get your take on this, because I’ve said this publicly, so you tear it apart. I think people that want to go back to December of 19 and that return to the office type of mentality, command and control, and I got to see you in order to know that you’re working, et cetera, I think that’s a tell of a bad manager. I think you’re already telling me that you’re not a good manager. You’re just not saying it. You’re just saying no, no. They’re packaging it in way in really clever ways. It’s like, oh, no, the soft skills. You’re not going to get that through Zoom. It’s a collaboration. There’s creativity. There’s positive reinforcement, et cetera, et cetera, but really all that stuff is window dressing for, we just want you back in the office.

Alex Draper: 25:30 Yeah. One example of that is Netflix. So you are coming back to work five days a week, and look what happened to them.

William Tincup: 25:40 Yeah. Again, you used the phrase, used to. Our leadership, the way it used to work. It used to work. I’m not sure it worked then.

Alex Draper: 25:53 Well-

William Tincup: 25:53 I might be wrong.

Alex Draper: 25:55 But we didn’t know any better. So-

William Tincup: 25:57 There you go.

Alex Draper: 25:57 The change that happened, you got no, but you need to change. Most of us just came to work, nine to five, five days a week, and that was it.

William Tincup: 26:03 Yeah. Just punch it in. Yeah, made sense. Yeah.

Alex Draper: 26:05 Now it’s like, wow, but then we’ve opened up Pandora’s Box. That, I hate to say it, is the silver lining of what’s happened over the last couple of years, is we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We now know, and a lot of us are having an enlightening experience, to which we are not willing to go back, and that’s okay. So change or die.

William Tincup: 26:23 That’s right. That’s right. Drops mic. Walks off stage Alex, thanks you so much, for your time and wisdom.

Alex Draper: 26:30 Always a pleasure, William. Thanks for having me. All of you out there, good luck. Have some compassion for yourself.

William Tincup: 26:37 Absolutely. Thanks for listening to RecruitingDaily Podcasts. Until next time.

Announcer: 26:42 You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by RecruitingDaily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at…

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William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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