4 Ways for Leaders to Embody Empathy


4 Ways for Leaders to Embody Empathy


The essential trait makes all the difference in a crisis, but what defining the actions that make audiences feel seen and heard can be nebulous.

Donovan Roche, VP, Havas Trust

Renowned philosopher Plato once said, “The highest form of knowledge is empathy. For it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” In other words, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

This is a very important trait for business leaders to exhibit, but it’s particularly critical during a crisis. And, ironically, this might be the most difficult time for them to do so.

When a crisis strikes, it often puts leadership on the defensive, causing them to think more about the impact bad news will have on their business or even themselves. When you’re trying to put out a fire, it can be tough to think about the other guy. But that’s exactly what leaders must do: Think like a fireman entering a burning building. They aren’t thinking about how the fire might harm them, but of all the innocent people trapped in that building.

Development Dimensions International (DDI), a global leadership consulting firm, determined that empathy is the single most important leadership skill. And, when culture management firm Partners in Leadership asked 300 leaders the question, “What belief do you want held about you after COVID-19 passes?” more than 60% suggested they wanted to be viewed as empathetic.

Easier said than done.

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