Impact Leadership: Profit or Impact? Is it a choice?

Impact Leadership: Profit or Impact? Is it a choice?


Programme Co-Director; 

Assistang Dean & Chief Representative for Europe,

Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB);

Co-Founder, Impact 17+1 Club.

Leadership is a popular subject in the past two decades.  Business schools worldwide developed so many leadership related courses such as “Lead for result”, “Fair process leadership”, “4D leadership”, “Strategic Leadership”, etc.   All these leadership perspectives have one thing in common, that is, profit driven.  As our world evolves, we need to include a very important element into leadership development: Impact.  I call it “Impact leadership”.  Impact leadership is to lead with compassion and empathy.  Impact Leaders are not just profit driven but also impact driven.  Profit and impact are viewed traditionally as in conflict.  However, impact leaders consider these two as twins.  They find good balance and harmony between the two.   


CKGSB alum, Mr. Zhang Yong, Founder and Chairman of Haidilao, a fast-growing Chinese hotpot restaurant chain is an impact leader.  Haidilao has nearly 500 restaurants worldwide with more than 60,000 employees.  It is listed in Hong Kong stock exchange in 2018 with a current market cap of about $38 Billion. Restaurant business is a very traditional business.  There are so many hotpot restaurants in China.  How can Mr. Zhang Yong and his company become so successful?  One important reason is his impact leadership.

Asian Barista preparing cup of coffee, espresso with latte or cappuccino for customer order

Mr. Zhang Yong took a lot of impact related actions.  He treated his employee with respect and dignity.  He insists on buying health insurance for all his employees.  He allows husband, wife and people from the same village to work in the same restaurant.  He gives his employees the right to waive charges to customers if they are not happy with the food and services.  These actions and policies have empowered his employees and made them very happy.  As a result, the employees pass their happiness to their customers.  What Mr. Zhang did seems small.  However, the impact on his employees and their family is profound.  A leader with impact mindset eventually profits from “impact return”!

Purely profit driven leadership is outdated.  Impact leaders will take the center stage in the near future!


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