Five Most Compassionate Leaders of 2016

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Five Most Compassionate Leaders of 2016

In Margaret Wheatley's latest book she argues for the need for leaders to restore sanity in these dark times and to act ethically and compassionately towards those who lead. While for the most part that seems like a pipe dream, there are a handful of leaders who are bringing care and compassion back to the practice of leadership.

Here are five leaders and how they are bringing humanity back to their companies and communities:

1. Dan Price has caused a whole lot of controversy in the business world — but he didn’t mean to. After being challenged by an employee about the salaries he paid his staff and how even if the amount matched industry standards it would still remain insufficient to provide for a reasonable standard of living, he raised Gravity’s minimum salary to $70,000. He funded this new project in part by cutting his own seven-figure salary from over a million dollars a year down to $70,000. He faced a lot of admiration and a lot of flack for this action, but he is sticking to his guns.

2.  Sally Osberg is CEO of the Skoll Foundation and a leading voice in social entrepreneurship. Under Sally’s leadership, the Foundation has invested in more than 100 ventures led by social entrepreneurs worldwide; established the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Saïd Business School of Oxford University; created the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship; and brokered cutting-edge partnerships with organizations including TED, the Sundance Institute, and the Social Progress Imperative. The Skoll World Forum brings together the world’s greatest innovators and social entrepreneurs to brainstorm solutions to the globe’s toughest challenges. 

3. Kenneth I. Chenault became one of the first African Americans to lead a Fortune 500 company when he took the reins at American Express. Compassion and interaction at all levels have been hallmarks of Chenault’s leadership style: he makes a concerted effort to personally respond to every employee that reaches out to him. Chenault also takes his civic duty seriously and serves on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and on the council for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

4. Marc Benioff is CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce, while also using his platform to call attention to various human rights violations such as the legislation in North Carolina that restricts LGBTQ rights. Benioff remains well known for flexing his economic muscle to influence legislators on important social issues and philanthropy is a core focus within his company. His organization's services, while priced competitively for companies and for-profit entities, are also offered at steep discounts (or in some cases, at almost no cost at all) to educational organizations and nonprofits.

5. Andrea Jung helms Grameen America and was formerly CEO at Avon which she lead to its status as the largest women’s-focused corporate philanthropy outfit in the world. She received the Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2010 for her efforts towards supporting women's causes. Now, Jung continues to fight for women as the CEO of Grameen America, a nonprofit microfinance organization that helps women in poverty around the world build their own sustainable small businesses.