Compassionate leadership is not just a nice idea — it's essential to success. Compassionate leaders understand that businesses are made up of people, each with their own needs and desires. When we treat people as individuals rather than groups or cogs in the machine, we create an environment where people feel valued and respected.
One of the most common myths I encounter is that compassionate leadership is weak. On the contrary, studies have shown that compassionate leaders are more effective: their ability to take a broader view leads to more innovation, greater productivity and higher quality decisions. No doubt, compassion might just be that missing link that will elevate you and your business to greater heights.
Another common misconception that compassionate leadership is at odds with delivering strong financial results. Indeed, we’ve been conditioned to view capitalism as the antithesis of compassion. The prevailing view is that capitalism advocates for a dog-eat-dog world, where only the strongest survive.
Capitalism relies on cooperation and collaboration — not competition and cutthroat tactics — to achieve its full potential. Compassionate leaders are more effective because they earn the respect of their employees, who are then motivated to work harder for them. They can inspire loyalty in their teams because they care about them as human beings rather than as dispensable workers who can be tossed aside at any time without consequence or cost to the company's bottom line. This is especially true in today's global economy where businesses are competing against each other from around the world.
Yet compassion and capitalism can coexist and thrive hand-in-hand. Falsely pitting them against each other only prevents leaders from realizing a more effective approach to lead – compassion first – which unleashes their people’s full potential.
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Board Member; Former CEO
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights; i3 (Division of UnitedHealth Group)