When I Grow Up - Empathy in Leadership



My name is Sophia, and I am so glad to be a newborn in 2021. These are some challenging times for all of us. Thoreau said, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?”

And before Thoreau, Marcus Aurelias said, “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”

And more recently, the Grateful Dead have reminded us to be the Eyes of the World. Wake now, discover that you are the song that the mornin' brings

We are all in our own world. As I, Sophia, sit here in the nursery, I look to others and others look to me. But I hope for a world where our leaders care. During this pandemic, our lives have changed. We need empathetic leaders, we need sympathetic leaders, we need compassion! We need leaders who can walk in another’s moccasins, as they said in ancient times. With our large forebrains, humans are the only species who have the ability to imagine ourselves in others’ situations….

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner

Honestly, though, for modern leaders, empathy is not enough – as a newborn, I am hoping that you will develop compassion – which is not just a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, but is accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

A global pandemic has disrupted your world of work. My parents and their peers stare in the face of displacement and layoffs. Some face the hardship of re-skilling and re-training. They find our workplace has changed.

Empathy is table stakes for leaders these days. Those who are building strong organizations amidst these times of change are going beyond empathy and diving headfirst into compassion. The strongest organizations will be those that retain top talent by accommodating the changing needs of their employees.

If sitting is the new smoking, then compassion is the new empathy. When I grow up and enter the workforce, I look forward to a new world of work where compassionate leaders sit on top of great organizations and care for their employees.


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