Okay, business in most cases is mostly about making money and growing.
And leaders are often seen as sharks, psychopaths even, who bully and weasel their way to the top.
That’s the way it goes, right? It does not have to be so.
Nice guys finish first
Professor Adam Grant explains in his bestseller Give and Take that kindness and compassion give us a far greater advantage than self-absorption. Nice guys do finish first, he says, as long as they learn how not to let others take advantage of them.
So yes, compassionate leaders often do lose out. Grant discovered that people who care about others’ well-being at work are over-represented at the bottom of the success ladder, pushed down by selfish “takers.” But “givers” are over-represented at the very top of the success ladder, too, if they prevent others from taking advantage of them.
They are more liked and appreciated and therefore become more influential. In part because everyone loves working with them and appreciates them for their kind and giving qualities.
When we see or experience compassion in the workplace, we get an inspired, warm feeling, termed “elevation” by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. And elevation leads to increased loyalty, and it creates a kinder culture around you. And even more: the sense of trust and well-being boosts innovation and experimentation, essential elements in organizations that want to grow and flourish.
Our best moments
I recently experienced such a state of elevation.
My mother was very ill and I knew her last days were approaching. Out of the blue, the CEO I’ve been teaming up with for several years called me in his office – as he sometimes does – for a chat. ‘You look a bit pale, lately… tell me, how are you, really?’, was his simple question. I told him I had not slept a lot the last weeks, and was facing a difficult period. My mom was dying.
His reply will stay with me forever…
‘What are you still doing here? Go home, right now. Leave your work to the colleagues. They will take over. None of that matters now. Take your time. Do what you need to do, and stay with your family as long as you feel necessary. And if someone in the company calls you or pushes you to do stuff, send them over to me right away.’
It was that simple.
In one short conversation, the world of work and the space of my deepest personal life touched, and a new and stronger connection was made. And guess where my loyalty is today.
And I bet when you read this, you feel the elevation too, the sense of belonging and respect, that binds us all in our best moments.
This post refers to insights shared by Emma Seppälä, PhD on Fast Company, referring to her book The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success. Copyright © 2016 by Emma Seppälä.