Ace V. Simpson is Reader in Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour at Brunel Business School, Brunel University London. Ace has a keen interest in human well-being, flourishing and social justice, and his research is concerned with positive organizational practices such as humility, psychological safety, paradox transcendence, and love. His main research focus is on the cultivation of organizational compassion, which he is currently studying as a critical missing factor in most programmes aiming to address the persistent problem of workplace bullying. Ace’s research has been published in journals such as the Academy of Management, Journal of Management, Journal of Business Ethic and Management Learning. Ace is also co-author of Positive Organizational Behaviour (Routledge, 2019).

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Talk: Compassionate Leadership: Learning from the case of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
During times of suffering such as that inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic, compassionate leaders can help to ease the pain by providing resources that facilitate healing. Despite an abundance leadership theorising, models and literature, however, there remains little academic theorising on compassionate leadership. The tendency has been for leadership theory to emphasise strength and calm rationality in making tough decisions when facing down overwhelming crises. Emotions such as empathy and compassion have, by contrast, been traditionally portrayed as the weak and sentimental antithesis of reason. The effect of such assumptions is to justify leadership approaches lacking in empathy and compassion. In this talk we analyse the case of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. She is often described in paradoxical terms (e.g., “kind and strong”; “steel and compassion”; “empathetic and strong”), indicating that effective compassionate leadership is complex, entailing the expert management apparently contradictory forces. While Ardern’s case is indeed specific to her personality and context, I present it as a starting point for articulating a broader theory of compassionate leadership.