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Real Leaders Have Empathy, Compassion and Acceptance and They're Not Afraid to Show It

06/09/2014 07:09 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2014

My byline here could be: And real companies pass those traits onto their team members in the form of Core Values. Furthermore, I think you, the reader, will see the reality that such concepts also grow the company into greater success. At the end of the day, companies are in the business of staying in business, creating profit and they do that through their employees.

Years ago, I wrote a book called Laughing Matters: The Value of Humor in the Workplace. My premise then (and now) was that "the company that plays together, stays together."

Perhaps, now, I'll state additionally that "the Company that cares together, shares together." Care and compassion rule! Companies like the ones I applaud know the value of putting their employees at the helm. They honor them, they appreciate them and they care for them, by providing wellness related incentives and opportunities and by providing the BEST possible coverage to assist and support them when they are not well. In other words, they share the burdens and they "do the right thing!"

In my past few articles, I've been writing about amazing CEOs who have a commitment to healthy workplaces and who are working with the American Cancer Society as CEO's Against Cancer. I'm continuing that today, with my next installment.

In a previous article I briefly introduced Rick Medlin. Rick is the CEO of Fruit of the Loom. I included the following quote from their company website: "We believe that successful companies need healthy societies. We embrace the concept of corporate social responsibility as a tool that provides an integral view of business and society."

In that vein, I want to share a few things I gleaned from Rick's responses to my questions. He was very forthcoming and genuinely considered his words in response and showed great sensitivity. He discussed that one of the major Core Values of the company is Respect for People, as they are their most valued assets. Furthermore, he said that they work to promote self esteem, help people reach their potential and they provide their employees benefits to protect them against physical, emotional and financial hardships.

What really stands out for me in these core values is the Respect for People. Often, in what I call "non-transformed" companies, their respect is less for their people and more for their customers. As long as an employee can do what they are there to do, then that's fine. If they can't, then they are replaceable. I know this sounds a bit harsh, but unfortunately, it's true. The reason I'm writing about these amazing CEOs and companies is because it's NOT true for them. Rick understands this. Fruit of the Loom gives employees leaves of absence and opportunities to speak frankly with their bosses if they choose to about serious issues, like cancer. Resources are in place to help and support.

I also had the privilege of receiving responses from Greg Wasson, CEO of Walgreen's. I continue to be blown away by the level of CEOs of very major companies who are willing to engage in this conversation. They deserve all the kudos I can give them and more.

Walgreen's has 248,000 "team members." Walgreens also recognizes them (their employees) as their greatest asset. They initiated a program called "Well at Walgreens." One of their core values is "compassionate caring." That phrase is singing my song.

Greg talks about their employees being "first and foremost, human beings -- coworkers, managers, friends and family" and he shared how everyone pulls together when a member of the Walgreens family is ill.

One more person I'd like to introduce you to is Inge Thulin, CEO of 3MCompany. In a message to his employees, Inge places huge emphasis on 3M's "healthy living" program and has challenged his key executives to keep his employees well through the art of self disclosure. For example, 3M's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications allows himself to tell a personal story of why and how people should take care of their health and he uses it as an opportunity to engage their people into Healthy Living practices.

A commonality among all of these CEOs is that even though they are Wellness and Health oriented, they recognize that some people do progress into serious illness. They then go into the next mode of supporting, helping with solutions for improving productivity for those experiencing illness and sometimes engaging the entire company to raise money, reach out, hold benefit concerts, substitute and fill in for the employee, donate accumulated sick leave and vacation time and more ... just to benefit the employee.

In my next segment, I'll write more about Greg Wasson and Inge Thulin.

Let's always remember, and this is not meant to be a downer, but just a reality check. People get seriously ill all the time. They can be young, old, male, female, etc. Illness, especially cancer is non-discriminating. Also, remember, most of us have parents, children, partners/ spouses that also get sick. We are all impacted. And, when anyone of us suffers from a major disease, we all sort of have it as well. Let's not ever pretend that it can't hit our family or us. So, let's brush up on our empathy, compassion and caring.