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We hear a lot about empathy being an essential quality for good leadership, right? It is a nice sentiment that a leader can put themselves in another’s shoes and see the world or an issue from their perspective, right? But is that enough?

Let’s start with the basics – what is empathy? Empathy is our feeling of awareness toward other people’s emotions and an attempt to understand how they feel.

It doesn’t mean that, even if you can put yourself in that other person’s shoes, you are going to do anything about it.

For example, I could see someone being humiliated by their boss and I could imagine how that might make them feel ie I might empathise with their situation. Is that where my responsibility ends or is there something more?

Of course, there is more if I am not just going to be another bystander – I need to want to help.

That is where compassion is a step up from empathy. Compassion is an emotional response to empathy or sympathy and creates a desire to help.  I empathise with the person and their situation and then I take action to help.

Compassionate leaders not only understand the emotions of their people but actively listen to them and seek solutions to support them and to  alleviate their struggles.

On the other hand, empathy alone may fall short in driving tangible change. Leaders who solely rely on empathy might find themselves navigating the emotional complexities of their team without necessarily addressing underlying issues.

While empathy creates a connection, compassion propels leaders to make a meaningful impact. Effective leadership requires a delicate balance between understanding the emotions of others and taking decisive actions to enhance the collective well-being. Leaders who blend empathy with compassion create an environment that values both emotional understanding and proactive problem-solving, both key components of psychologically safe workplaces.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you to learn about compassionate leadership? Call us on 1300 108 488 or email





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