By Bob Johnston
June 5, 2022

Compassionate Leadership – w/ Author Donato Tramuto, Phil Johnston, Tom Riley, Kurt Small, and Laurie Cameron

Today’s podcast is a roundtable discussion focused on the topic of compassionate leadership, which is top of mind for nearly every executive, whether you’re running a large or small business or for-profit or not-for-profit organization. 

Leading the roundtable is Donato Tramuto, author of a new book entitled, The Double Bottom Line – How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results. The book is at the top of its category on Amazon.

The other members of the roundtable are Kurt Small, President, East Markets, Commercial and Specialty Business Division, Anthem Inc., which is the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association network, with over 40 million members…Tom Riley, former CEO of SeniorLink, which is the largest provider of family caregiver services…Laurie Cameron, CEO of PurposeBlue, which is a pioneer in science-backed mindfulness-based programs for corporations…and Phil Johnston, CEO of PWJ Associates, which provides government relations, business development, and PR services to for profits and not-for-profits. He’s also my Dad, so this was an especially fun podcast for me. 

During the discussion, we dive into the notion of compassionate leadership, why write a book on the subject, and why it’s important right now in the evolution of companies and society. 

Donato interviewed 40 leaders across many industries to come up with his nouvelle framework around compassionate leadership. During this research, he uncovered a number of areas to address, including a ‘compassionate leadership gap’ between the old ways of managing a workforce and what is needed now. The book’s approach goes beyond empathetic leadership and focuses on helping leaders get the balance right between tenderness, trust and toughness.

The roundtable guests also touch on the compassion moments in their own lives that shifted their way of thinking, managing and being a leader. They discuss why the recent Great Resignation should be re-labeled the Great Reflection – people are resigning because they have reflected that they are tired of not being heard and respected. 

Through this lens, trust and rewards systems, both formal and informal, are important elements along the journey of compassionate leadership. Customers, employees, and community all play crucial roles. Further, creating an environment for psychological safety of employees can engender tremendous goodwill and virtuous effects within an organization that have real-world, tangible and tactical outcomes on revenue and workforce motivation/attrition. You rent your tile but you own your dignity, as Donato noted.

Lastly, I should note that compassion can be used in your personal life, too. Listening to understand instead of listening to react is one of Donato’s mantras. Be more compassionate to yourself, who often can be your own worst enemy, and to the people who you care about and, notably, who care about you. This means call your Mom or Dad or someone you care about today – don’t email or text her – but call her.

Donato & Roundtable Bios:


Donato J. Tramuto is the author of The Double Bottom Line, How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results. He is also former CEO of Tivity Health, Inc., a leading provider of fitness and health improvement programs. A recognized innovator and industry leader, he has more than 35 years of healthcare experience, with a deep commitment to global healthcare access, a steadfast focus on patient outcomes and a keen understanding of digital solutions.

Tramuto joined Tivity Health’s board in 2013 and became chairman in 2014. In 2008, he founded Physicians Interactive Holdings (now Aptus Health), a global provider of insight-driven digital engagement solutions for healthcare professionals and consumers, where he served as CEO and chairman.

In 2011, Tramuto founded Health eVillages, a non-profit organization which provides state-of-the-art mobile health technology in the most challenging clinical environments. He is also the chairman and founder of the Tramuto Foundation, which helps individuals and organizations achieve their educational and healthcare goals.

Tramuto has been widely recognized for his more than three decade commitment to social change. In 2014, he was honored alongside Hillary Clinton, Robert DeNiro, and Tony Bennett, with the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award. In 2015, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

Tramuto serves on several executive leadership boards, including the board of the Boston University School of Public Health, the Livongo Health Foundation, the Brown University Healthcare Leadership Board, the board of directors for Sharecare, Inc., and the board of Safe Harbor Compliance and Clinical Development. In 2016, he was appointed to the board of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. He is also chairman of the board of Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights Europe. Tramuto is also the author of Life’s Bulldozer Moments: How Adversity Leads to Success in Life and Business, a Hamilton Press publication.


Phil Johnston is currently the President & CEO of PWJ Associates. Phil is former Secretary of Health and Human Services in Massachusetts. As Secretary, he was responsible for the administration of 17 state agencies in the health and human services field, which comprised over fifty percent of the state budget. Just prior to his appointment as Secretary, Phil had begun his fifth consecutive term as an elected State Representative from the Fourth Plymouth District of Massachusetts.  

Phil also served as the Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in Washington, D.C., an organization established by the Kennedy family to continue to carry on Robert F. Kennedy’s work in the field of social justice and human rights in the United States and around the globe.  In 1992, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the New England Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Phil was appointed in 2007 by Governor Deval Patrick as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts. Phil has served on the Board of Directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts since 1998.  In 2002, he was appointed to Chair the Board of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. Phil is the Board Chair of the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, sits on the Boards of ConforMIS, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Carroll Center for the Blind, the Tramuto Foundation, Health eVillages, and the Advisory Board for the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center. Most recently, Phil was named a trustee of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.


Mr. Small is Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Government Business Division at Anthem, Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the operational and technology strategies which drive growth and competitiveness across the Government Business Division. Under his leadership, the organization serves roughly 11 million Medicare and Medicaid members stretching across 23 states.


Tom Riley served as CEO of Seniorlink from 2009-2021, bringing his vision and expertise to the next generation of innovative care. As Chairman of the Board, he remains committed to enriching the lives of caregivers and their families. He brought more than three decades of leadership experience in health care services and proprietary education to Seniorlink as a former board member and interim Chairman/CEO of Brown schools, which provides specialized residential treatment and education programs for at-risk youth.

Tom was also CEO of Care Advantage, a provider of high-cost case management services, and he served as CFO and CEO of MENTOR. In 2017, Tom was appointed to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's inaugural Council to address Aging. Comprised of leaders across public and private sectors, the Council focuses on developing a plan to improve efforts to support healthy aging in Massachusetts and achieve the goal of making the Commonwealth the most age-friendly state for people of all ages. Tom also serves on the Boards of Ageless Innovation, Strategic Venue Partners and In Home Therapy.


With 25 years of international management consulting and business leadership experience, and a passion for creativity, transformation and human development, Laurie is dedicated to helping people learn mindfulness to live with meaning and lead with purpose-driven performance. As a former Accenture management consultant and business executive with three companies, her clients tell her she "gets their challenges" - in how she translates mindfulness into practical language and applications for everyday life.

Laurie founded PurposeBlue on her realization that mindfulness is the foundational competency for achieving human potential, happiness and optimal well-being. Mindful, resilient leaders deepen their self-awareness and self-mastery, which allows them to be in a place of choice during difficult moments. Mindful Leaders are able to stay connected to purpose and thrive during uncertainty, change, and the distractions of our tech-saturated world.

We ought to listen to understand instead of listening to react
One of Donato's mantras for leading with compassion
The Great Resignation should be re-labeled The Great Reflection
Donato on the deep thinking that went into the recent and seismic shifts in the global workforce

03:18 - Bob introduces the panelists: Donato Tramuto, Tom Riley, Kurt Small, Laurie Cameron, and Phil Johnston

07:54 - Why write a book on compassionate leadership now?

11:04 - A follow-up for Donato: How does a leader start using compassion in their leadership practice, whether they are in charge of large teams, small teams, or entire organizations?

13:55 - Bob asks the roundtable to share their personal strategies and perspectives when it comes to leading compassionately

26:20 - Bob poses a question to the roundtable: was there a singular, defining moment when you changed your thinking in terms of compassion and leadership? Or, did you always have compassion as a foundational element of your life and leadership style?

30:32 - The panel discusses how to show compassion to yourself

44:32 -  Donato discusses trust and his book's  concept around the Three Ts: Tenderness, Trust, & Tenacity

49:04 - Donato asks the panel whether they  place a higher value on trust or culture

57:40 - Closing thoughts