Altruistic Leadership Newsletter


Welcome to my first quarterly newsletter from White Pine Mountain, LLC.

Below are the 13 skills that lead to happiness, that lead to a meaningful, joyful life. In this post, I want to deal with only one of these skills – “Being altruistic/kind” and do so in the context of leadership.

So, what in the world does kindness have to do with leadership? Lots!

Start with the assumption that great leadership is given, not grabbed. Power and influence are given to the most successful leaders by the people who follow them. People within an organization give power to those who act in the collective best interest. When leaders don’t act in their collective interest, but act in a self-centered, privileged way, the followers will eventually undermine their power.

In numerous studies across a broad range of arenas (manufacturing plants, banks, schools, hospitals) those who lead most successfully practice five general ways of acting in the interest of the greater good. These social tendencies are known as the “Big Five.”

  1. Enthusiasm – They reach out to others.
  2. Focus – They focus on SHARED goals.
  3. Kindness – They cooperate, share, care about others.
  4. Calmness – They instill calm, perspective … they are the eye of the storm in challenging times.
  5. Openness – They are open to others’ ideas, feelings, needs.

So, the conclusion I come to is that “being altruistic/kind” leads to not only happiness, but more effective leadership and organization performance. Incivility and lack of kindness costs companies billions of dollars each year. Just ask United Airlines how much incivility costs them.

Interestingly, as leaders gain greater power, they can fall into the trap of becoming more self-serving and acting in more privileged manners, thinking the expected behaviors of the organization don’t apply to them. Positive psychologists Dacher Keltner recently authored a great book that details this, The Power Paradox. I found the book to be very insightful.

On a more personal note, I continue to work with Canyon Ranch and DePauw and speak around the country on happiness and leadership. It is a joy. Most recently, I have co-founded a new business to bring the science of positive psychology to the corporate world. More on this in future quarterly emails.

I hope each of you receiving this email are well. Any feedback on this first quarterly email would be appreciated.

Be well … be joyful.

–Douglas. A. Smith

Altruistic/Kindness Tip

Next time you have a meeting with someone, spend a few minutes ahead of time
thinking about where they are coming from…put yourself in their shoes.
Have this in mind as you start the meeting. You might just make a friend (or customer) for life.

From the bookshelf!

Books I am reading and highly recommend.