After spending years as a leader in the technology, business, and media industries, Laura Berland discovered a glaring need for compassion in the corporate world. By combining the best of modern leadership tactics with enlightening wisdom practices and mindfulness, Laura created the Center for Compassionate Leadership to train industry leaders on how to lead with empathy, understanding, and thoughtfulness. She is dedicated to making the world a more compassionate place and fighting for inclusivity of women in the workforce.
How would you define compassionate leadership?
In today’s modern, western culture, a lot of our values are monetary, material, and titled — everything is about what you own and what you do. That mindset, however, is working in opposition to the wellbeing of most of the workforce. People are burnt out, overwhelmed, and facing mental health challenges as they lose their core identity from being overworked. Compassionate leadership is the idea that we should prioritize common humanity instead of competition. When we do that, it allows for people to people, organizations, communities, and the planet to flourish. Compassionate leadership focuses on connection rather than separation and gives us a new mindset to lean into.
What are the key principles that compassionate leaders live by?
First and foremost, compassionate leaders look after their own well being, they practice a positive growth mindset, and they exude a sense of ease. These leaders refuse to operate out of fear, and instead have a centered presence that allows them to have concern for the wellbeing of the people around them. It all starts from the inside out — if your cup is empty then you have nothing left to give to the people who rely on you to lead. Compassionate leaders think about common humanity as an opportunity to cultivate connection, cooperation, and support. When people feel safe and supported, they show up as their best selves, and compassionate leaders foster that environment.
How do you think compassionate leadership empowers women to be leaders in the workforce?
Although there has certainly been progress in women’s equality and gender parity, working women are still facing many of the same issues now that they faced decades ago. Compassionate leaders look at people without bias to gender, sexual orientation, race, or age, and instead focus on treating people with empathy and respect. If we incorporate more leaders like this, the systemic bias that keeps women and other underrepresented groups down will dissipate. To get there, we have to celebrate the potential for women to be recognized as equals and honor one another as humans.
If you could offer a piece of advice to young women entering the workforce, what would it be?
Above all else, it’s important to find your center and find your strength. When you find your truth from the inside out, it prevents you from being stuck in a box by someone else. Operating from an authentic place gives you an energetic power that is really hard for people to knock through. This next generation of women has the opportunity to show up as who they truly are and make a positive change. I am so encouraged by what I see in this generation. We all want institutional change, but we can only get there by taking it one step at a time until there is a collective mindset towards changing the norms.