By Bruce Walker

What could an empowered, creative and happy workforce mean to the world?

The workplace is changing, faster than we could ever imagine. A greater proportion of people than ever are knowledge workers - people who think for a living. From programmers to academics and entrepreneurs, this growing group needs space for creativity and critical thought.

Instead, knowledge workers can be met with rigid rules and cold command. Employees are frequently treated like children to be controlled and monitored rather than adults to be inspired and led. Traditional leadership often rewards the quantity, not quality, of work.

And it is having a catastrophic effect on our mental health. According to the CIPD, Scotland's professional body for HR and people development: "Up to one in four workers [in Scotland] report intense and stressful working conditions, such as feeling exhausted, miserable or stressed."

If we want a more compassionate, human-centred society, change needs to begin with our leaders.

That was the message of Bob Champan, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller network, at an event organised by the Scottish Leadership Institute I attended last month. "Truly human leadership," Bob says, "is knowing that you are a steward of the lives entrusted to you."

Truly human leaders understand that their employees' value is more than just the work they produce. They know that people are not machines and that their teams are imperfectly human: they make mistakes, experience great joy and deep pain. They listen - to their team's opinions, frustrations and goals. "People want to know who they are and that what they do matters," says Bob.

By looking out for their employees, truly human leaders can change not just their workplace but also wider society. The way leaders treat their team ripples out into how they, in turn, treat their colleagues, friends and loved ones - small acts of kindness go a long way.

Named the #3 CEO in the world in 2019 by Inc. Magazine, Bob is a role model to all leaders. His 'Truly Human Leadership' mantra has trickled down through the Barry-Wehmiller network, turning around almost 90 dysfunctional companies since Bob inherited the conglomerate in 1975 and now employs 11,000 people across the globe.

Truly human leadership is not just good for people - it's great for business, too. With revenues of over £2.3B and across 28 countries in the Barry-Wehmiller network, it's clear that empathetic, human leadership works. By balancing people and purpose with profit, businesses can attract and retain the best talent, create long-lasting relationships with customers and outperform competitors.

Here in Scotland, a movement to unlock the potential of business to transform society is also gathering momentum. Human-centric companies, such as Hey Girls, AAI EmployAbility and Administrate, drive the charge to transform workplaces and management culture. We have a unique opportunity to set a standard for compassionate business to the rest of the world: Scottish companies are forging the path to improve the quality of life for all.

On May 20th, entrepreneurial leaders, citizens, policymakers and educators at the forefront of this movement will convene in Glasgow at Impact Summit, the UK's leading impact event for people using business to tackle shared challenges. We designed Impact Summit to inspire and support anyone who wants to create a better world through business and create a space to celebrate new leadership models and initiatives.

When leaders at every level move from a mentality of power to one of compassion, we will be well on our journey to reconnect business to its core purpose: serving humanity.

Bruce Walker is the CEO and co-founder of FutureX, the company behind Impact Summit. Impact Summit 2020 will take place at SWG3 in Glasgow on Wednesday, May 20.