Leadership: What's Empathy Got to Do With It?

By: Bruna Martinuzzi


Empathetic Leadership Empathy Leader Attributes



Empathy is your ability to identify and understand another’s
situation, feelings and motives




Xenophon leadership advice

A leader should
show humanity, a basic empathy with people.



Genghis Khan advice

A leader can never be happy until his people are happy.




Empathy is valued currency. It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our “people acumen” and informs our decisions.

Empathy is also particularly critical to leadership development in this age of young, independent, highly marketable and mobile workers.

A formal definition of Empathy is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives. It’s our capacity to recognize the concerns other people have. Empathy means: “putting yourself in the other person’s shoes” or “seeing things through someone else’s eyes”.


Empathetic Leadership

Affiliative Leadership

Leading by Serving

NLP Perceptual Positions

Empathize with Customers

Empathetic Marketing

Design Thinking







Dale Carnegie quotes

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.




We all know some people who are naturally and consistently empathetic – these are the people who can easily forge positive connections with others. They are people who use empathy to engender trust and build bonds; they are catalysts who are able to create positive communities for the greater good.

But even if empathy does not come naturally to some of us, I firmly believe that we can develop this capacity.


Leadership Styles

Affiliative Leadership

Leader as Servant

Personal Development Leadership Philosophy


People Skills




Vadim Kotelnikov

To understand someone, you must become s/him. Empathy helps you understand people even when they are silent.

Vadim Kotelnikov, founder of 1000ventures - personal logo VadiK

Inventor Business e-Coach

Author Innoball

Founder Innompic Games icon




PowerPoints for sale

Smart & Fast

Leadership Success 360


Vadim Koelnikov personal logo






Here are a few practical tips
you might consider to help you develop capacity for empathy:



Listen – truly listen to people

Listen with your ears, eyes and heart. Pay attention to others' body language, to their tone of voice, to the hidden emotions behind what they are saying to you, and to the context.


Listening as a key leadership skill

Yin-Yang of Listening

Active Listening



Don't interrupt people. Don't dismiss their concerns offhand. Don't rush to give advice. Don't change the subject. Allow people their moment.

Tune in to non-verbal communication. This is the way that people often communicate what they think or feel, even when their verbal communication says something quite different.  >>>

Practice the 93% rule. We know from a famous study by Professor Emeriti, Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, that words – the things we say – account for only 7% of the total message that people receive. The other 93% of the message that we communicate when we speak is contained in our tone of voice and body language. It's important, then, to spend some time to understand how we come across when we communicate with others. A simple thing like frowning or a raised eyebrow when someone is explaining their point of view can disconnect us from the speaker and make us appear as though we lack understanding.


IDEO Tom Kelley creativity innovation quotes

Empathy means challenging your preconceived ideas and setting aside your sense of what you think is true in order to learn what actually is true that people aren’t conscious of.

Tom Kelley







Max DePree quotes

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant >>>

De Pree

Use people's name. Also remember the names of people's spouse and children so that you can refer to them by name.

Be fully present when you are with people. Don't check your email, look at your watch or take phone calls when a direct report drops into your office to talk to you. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if your boss did that to you.

Smile at people.

Encourage people, particularly the quiet ones, when they speak up in meetings. A simple thing like an attentive nod can boost people's confidence.

Give genuine recognition and praise. Pay attention to what people are doing and catch them doing the right things. When you give praise, spend a little effort to make your genuine words memorable: "You are an asset to this team because…."; "This was pure genius"; "I would have missed this if you hadn't picked it up."

Take a personal interest in people. Show people that you care, and genuine curiosity about their lives. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges, their families, their aspirations.