Laurel Donnellan: The Compassionate Leadership Awards

Jun 1, 2024 9:33:06 AM | #EngageCreatively Laurel Donnellan: The Compassionate Leadership Awards

How do you promote a squishy-sounding concept like Compassionate Leadership to hard-nosed corporate executives? Laurel Donnellan chose to #EngageCreatively

Laurel DonnellanLaurel Donnellan had a problem.

In today’s cutthroat business culture, the “Compassionate Leadership” Laurel teaches sounds like a politically correct attempt to whitewash hard-edged corporate practices. Like laying someone off but doing it with a smile and a firm handshake. Like claiming that “our people are our most important assets” and slashing their benefits. Like celebrating Earth Day while increasing carbon emissions.

In reality, Compassionate Leadership can be fierce.

Academic research supports that compassion offers a competitive advantage and Compassionate Leadership has proven itself repeatedly in the business world as a sound strategy. Socially-responsible companies with a purpose consistently outperform their peers, especially those who exist solely to maximize returns. Actual compassion, as opposed to sympathy or empathy, is difficult to achieve but only if it’s learned and reinforced over time, which requires commitment from senior leadership to model the behaviors they wish their teams to adopt consistently.

According to Compassionate Leaders Circle Founder and Forbes Columnist Laurel Donnellan, the challenge is that many executives are skeptical. Generations of observing tough leaders have conditioned them to believe that the best bosses are the most stoic, making them hesitant to hire another business consultant to deliver feel-good platitudes to jaded managers.

Laurel solved executive skepticism with a key insight: showing the actual impact of compassionate leadership would be far more potent than simply describing it. So, she created and hosts The Annual Compassionate Leaders Circle Awards, which showcases the most compassionate real-world leaders her team could find. 

The next step, of course, was finding genuinely compassionate leaders to honor. She wanted “real” people, not celebrities, high-profile executives, or government officials. So, she just asked her 18,000 LinkedIn connections to nominate compassionate leaders they knew. And they responded. Hundreds of thoughtful, engaging, and uplifting stories from around the world pour in annually across business sectors. 

After every response had been considered, Laurel and her team chose the honorees and hosted a virtual show so she could tell their stories of Compassionate Leadership and bestow their awards. Then she wrote their stories for her column and used her podcast to further amplify their messages.


Compassionate Leaders Award Winners 2024

Compassionate Leaders Award Winners 2024

Interestingly, after all the publicity and the SEO boost, and everything that followed, the true economic value for Laurel came from the one-on-one conversations she had with nominees. Repeatedly, after being nominated by their co-workers, executives at organizations large and small told her, “I am so honored to be honored for my compassionate leadership, but I need help getting others onboard to this approach. Can you sit down with me and my senior team and explain your programs?” 

Then, finally, with the door held wide open and a receptive audience waiting, Laurel could share the power of Compassionate Leadership with more organizations and leaders who want to find more effectiveness through leading with love and compassion. 

Paul Angles

Written By: Paul Angles