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Empathy Isn’t Enough

Compassionate leadership integrates empathy with the critical element of action

We’ve been living in unprecedented times. As a result of the pandemic and political and social upheaval, trends that were emerging have quickly accelerated: a move toward remote work and flexible hours, the need for greater adaptability that allows businesses to pivot quickly in changing conditions, and leadership that prioritizes workers’ humanity. Moreover, a generational shift in the workplace means five generations make up the workforce for the first time, as the youngest generations enter and older workers delay their retirement. New generations have different attitudes, priorities, and work styles, and it’s essential for leaders to understand what motivates each generation, and how to harness diversity to create stronger teams. During the widespread exodus from the workforce—what many have called “the great resignation”—I would describe the “great reflection” during which workers reevaluated their priorities, resulting in many of them opting to leave their jobs to find healthier and more satisfying work and lives.

To succeed in this new world, leaders need to shift their mindsets and upgrade their skills. They need to prioritize communication, adaptability, and employees’ well-being. They need to embrace diversity and inclusion, create stronger teams, and take responsibility for the impact they have on their communities and the world. And as we see how recent events have affected our families, employees, and coworkers, we need to embrace empathy and compassion. But while empathy has been widely discussed in leadership circles, it's not enough on its own. In this excerpt from The Double Bottom Line: How Compassionate Leaders Captivate Hearts and Deliver Results, I describe why empathy isn’t sufficient (and can even make things worse) and importantly how empathy paired with action can lead to more powerful results.—Donato Tramuto

Empathy is today’s leadership buzzword, and it’s often confused with compassion. In this chapter I’m going to show you that empathy isn’t enough, and that it can even backfire if leaders’ actions don’t back up their words.

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