Empathy & Compassion: The Second Power Skill for Leaders in a New Era

To successfully lead companies and inspire people, leaders need to develop new capabilities. A new type of leader is needed to inspire and lead their people – one who engages their heart and soul as well as their capabilities, blending their analytical and whole human skills

There are seven Power Skills that help leaders do just this:

  • Self-Awareness & Capacity for Growth
  • Empathy & Compassion
  • Ego-Awareness & Humility
  • Transparency & Truth
  • Resilience & Emotional Intelligence
  • Purpose
  • Servant Leadership

Let’s take a closer look at the second: Empathy & Compassion.

With the events of the past several months impacting all of us in profound ways, leaders must realize that many employees are working while experiencing stress, anxiety, and grief. Leaders need to have a sense of when team members need support, a break from a meeting, or just heartfelt words of encouragement. Not all of us are naturally empathetic…we become intune enough to recognize that and surround ourselves with others who are.

The current crisis also requires compassionate leaders, who are candid AND are also focused on maintaining confidence, hope, and optimism. Compassionate leaders understand that people want to be part of something meaningful and influential, they want to be seen and heard, and be able to show up as their authentic selves at work. These leaders hold a deep and authentic concern for how their team members feel and what they’re getting out of their work experience. 

Empathy includes active listening, modeling vulnerability, and developing the ability to see the world from someone else’s eyes. The intention is to instill confidence, hope, and optimism in others, “hold space” for difficult conversations, and build meaningful, trust-based relationships. 

Some questions to get you started on Empathy & Compassion


  1. Do I share my true self?
  2. Can I see other’s true self?
  3. Am I listening to understand or to manage?
  4. How do I express understanding, compassion, and empathy?


Micro-practices for Empathy & Compassion:

  1. Active listening – Active listening involves more than just hearing someone speak. Focus on listening with all of your senses and give your full attention to the person speaking. Listen not just to hear and respond but to understand. Focus on making eye contact, listening patiently without judgment, shutting down your internal dialogue / creating a response narrative while listening, avoiding ready answers, and opinions about what is being said.


  1. Holding space for others – Do you want to be of service to your team member, peer? Do you want to be fully present without agenda or judgment? That desire is the first building block for holding space. From there, allow the other person to feel whatever they are feeling and say what they need to say even if it is uncomfortable to hear. Focus on being present. Don’t jump into ‘fixing’ or trying to control the situation…this is likely the most difficult element for leaders in Western culture. Try to simply be with the person for whom you are holding space. Focus on creating a space for them to feel like they belong and are safe to drop their defenses – that is when they can self-reflect which will lead to positive growth and development.

Deep authentic concern for othersDo you contribute positively to the welfare of those you work and interact with. Do you take an active interest in the feelings, and perspectives of those you are interacting with? Think and act with warmth and concern. Respect the needs, feelings, and perspectives of others no matter their role or level in the organization.