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Empathetic Leadership: How can we lead by example?

The power you hold is only as good as the character you hold it with.

By Niha Shah, Brand & Customer Experience Manager, Y. K. Almoayyed & Sons, Kingdom of Bahrain

Right from the global appreciation received by AirBnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky for his 3,374-word empathetic letter of acknowledgement towards the 1,900 employees laid off in 2020 to PepsiCo’s former CEO Indira Nooyi advocating integrity and character at all times — history has it that people idolize those who lead with empathetic values.

Whether you are a team leader, manager, professor, doctor, or entrepreneur, we all share two commonalities: the first is that we are leading someone or something, and the second more obvious one is that we are all noticeably, human.

Empathetic leadership begins with the realization that no matter what rank of the hierarchy you are at, you are accountable from the moment you hold a rank. Leaders who understand this automatically develop a human-centric approach while taking decisions, knowing full-well that they need to account for what people truly need, what the firm needs, and how they can leverage their role to best serve both.

Google reports an enhanced productivity observed in teams who liked their managers. McKinsey confirms that sound relationships with managers enhanced employees’ job satisfaction directly. Gallup affirms a 147% higher annual earnings than competitors when companies proactively worked towards doubling engagement in their workforce.

Psychologists and researchers have also observed a globally growing number of self-empowered employees across diverse industries, who are now very confident and comfortable when it comes to confronting acts of managers that lack integrity. With an average of 1.6 million new graduates (who come with the knowledge of empathetic leadership values and business ethics) getting recruited annually, leading with empathy and integrity is now more critical than ever.


Leadership is weak when overtly empathetic and weakest when without any at all. One who employs a smart balance of emotional and cognitive investment has the makes of a powerful empathetic leader.

Every challenge can be turned into an opportunity if you have the attitude for it. It is all about wanting to bring the solution to the table, while giving your people the unspoken assurance that you genuinely care. Here’s how:

  • Great leaders first listen to all concerns humanely, but infuse rational intelligence to resolve them.
  • They remain unfazed even in the light of negative emotion or conduct exhibited by the opposite party with an undivided focus on driving the firm, the project, and the stakeholders to achieve optimum results.
  • They dig deep into underlying emotions while retaining a bird’s eye view of the goals.
  • They bring logical corrections to the root cause, thereby automatically correcting the emotional imbalance of any given situation.


This approach enables you to forge loyalty and longevity with your alliances. When people see you make sound decisions through compassion and prudence, they find you approachable and trustworthy. You gain and sustain respect, because people will observe that leading with empathy is your authentic style.

At a macro-level, you create more:

  • Productive cultures
  • Enthusiastic workforces
  • Useful policies
  • Realistic expectations
  • Intelligent solutions
  • A higher retention rate

Clearly, the benefits are not just multifarious, they are also long-lasting.


Initiate, without personal biases. Take the lead and be intrigued toward perceptions.

Listen, without haste. Be patient while you receive ideas or complaints.

Discuss, with logic.  Sensibly explain your standards and establish ground rules of what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.

Confront, with good intent. Have the tough talks when you spot something out of line, but with the sole intention to do right by your duty.

Remember, the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is that the great lead with empathy consistently, not conditionally. The question is, what kind of leader do you choose to be?

Niha Shah, Brand & Customer Experience Manager, Y. K. Almoayyed & Sons, Kingdom of Bahrain


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