Compassionate leaders acknowledge our universal interconnectedness and use their influence to make a positive impact on others and the planet. These leaders are courageous, contemplative, collaborative and care about the world they will leave behind.
Over the last year, I have had the honor of covering the relatively new discipline of compassionate leadership and the process has given me the opportunity to meet inspiring people and learn from their experiences. Here is a review of some of these leaders and the wisdom they shared, in the order I wrote about them:
1. Leader: Chuck Feeney is the dynamic founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies and co-founder of Duty Free Shopping. He has given away more than $8B.
Lesson: If you are lucky enough to amass wealth, consider giving much of it away and do some good while you are still alive. Chuck launched the Giving While Living movement. This campaign has inspired others, including Bill Gates, to give away a large percentage of their fortunes to causes and philanthropies that are important to them.
2. Leader: Eileen Fisher is the Founder and CEO of her sustainable clothing brand, Eileen Fisher.
Lesson: The decisions you make as a business leader can accelerate sustainability for people and the planet. Her company provides all employees perks like an annual wellness and education budget. Recently, the company partnered with researchers and farmers to create more sustainable wool that ensures the sheep and land in their supply chain are treated humanely and ecologically.
Lesson: Organic farming is good for all of us and our planet. We must support organic farmers. Putting more organic matter into our soil increases crop yields, ensures a more nutritious food supply and reduces the greenhouse gas effect. Tasch adds, “Farmers are the heroes—facing nature, market forces squeezing nutrition out of the food system, and climate change.”
4. Leader: Karlin Sloan is the CEO of Sloan Group International, a global leadership development consultancy with offices in the USA, Australia and India.
Lesson: Leaders of the future will drive purpose and meaning at work. How do we cultivate inspiring leadership? We focus on the larger picture, on contribution to something larger and more important than our own self-gain. In order to have people follow you, you need to inspire them through something that transcends the day-to-day.
5. Leaders: John and Molly Chester are entrepreneurs, filmmakers and bio-dynamic farmers. Their critically acclaimed documentary, The Biggest Little Farm that was released in 2019 chronicles a sometimes-harrowing journey transforming a conventional operation into a highly diversified and successful organic farm.
Lesson: Find your buzz. Finding passions that will lead to your best ideas for an enterprise can be a physical, rather than intellectual experience. Before John and Molly knew that their passions for filmmaking and food would transform into a movie and a farm, they noticed a buzz of excitement in their chests. John got that sensation when he was with animals and holding camera equipment while Molly found her buzz around food in health food stores. As we discussed this concept, we realized everyone may feel this in a different part of their body. (For me, my buzz starts in my temples and moves to my shoulders.)
6. Leader: Uvinie Lubecki created a leadership curriculum based on the teachings of the Dalai Lama and is the founder of Leading Through Connection.
Lesson: The first step to compassion is self-compassion. The lens through which we see ourselves is the same lens through which we see others. If we can extend kindness toward ourselves as leaders and recognize when things get tough that we’re doing our best and that our intention is to be of benefit, this can be a powerful practice.
7. Leader: Scott Shute is the Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn. His job is to operationalize compassion at work.
Lesson: Compassion is a strategic advantage. It’s a great way to build as a person, as a team, as a company and a business. We define compassionate leadership in three parts — an awareness and deep understanding of others, a mindset of wishing the best for others and the courage to take action. Our goal is to make everyone at LinkedIn a compassionate leader.
8. Leaders: David Corsun and Cheri Young are innovative leaders in hospitality business education. David is the Director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver and Cheri is an Associate Professor at the University of Denver.
Lesson: Teach compassion to future leaders by creating meaningful experiences that foster empathy. Their program dubbed RAH (Ready for American Hospitality) opens the minds and hearts of undergraduate hospitality students by pairing them with refugees as a way for students to practice human resources management while supporting their refugee protégés in gaining practical employment skills.
Lesson: Make work fun. She’s a big promoter of getting out of the office, taking her employees out for team building experiences and creative thinking a few times a year that often include shopping excursions. Her team worked on the launch of a successful game called Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm, where her team developed the timeline to match National Weed Smoking Day: April 20th. It’s since become one of the most successful celebrity apps, impressively combining art, music, and the gaming industry.
10. Leader: Kathleen King is the Founder of Tate’s Bake Shop started her business at 20, lost it at 40, rebuilt it from scratch (pun intended) and then sold it for three times the price she thought she would.
Lesson: Losing everything can help you focus and make better business decisions. Kathleen found liberation when she had to reset. Her previous bakeshop had been her “baby” and when that was taken away from her, she was stripped of her strong emotional attachment to her business and was able to execute her next action steps to rebuild and scale the company with profound clarity so she could reach her goal of building value and selling the business.
11. Leader: Kristina Workman is a professor at SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University and thought leader in the relatively new discipline of compassion in the workplace. She is a member of the Compassion Lab where “compassion scholars” share and support high-quality research that is envisioning a better future for businesses and organizations.
Lesson: Compassion is the heart’s response to suffering. If you create a supportive work environment where everyone can come from a better place of understanding it can contribute to the bottom line.
12. Leader: Larry Carlson is the former president of HBO satellite services and a cable TV network pioneer. He retired when he was 49 and now spends his time creating beauty, philosophizing and supporting the people and causes he loves.
Lesson: Try to be of benefit to others and everything else will fall into place. Honest communication can lead to trust first, then if you work at it, intimacy and eventually love in both personal and professional relationships will follow.
I look forward to meeting more compassionate leaders, gaining wisdom in the process and sharing the lessons with you.