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March 22, 2023

A Crisis in Leadership

Quick Note: Today we’re announcing a new month-long experience focused on Empathetic Leadership. We’ll keep the group small and tight to support each of you. Read more and join us here!

From the Top

Lately, the headlines haven’t been kind to leaders. And in many cases, it’s for good reason. We are starving for quality leaders and managers across nearly every sector — from government to philanthropy to technology to our largest financial institutions. (Hi, SVB.)

But I’m curious…how did we get here?

Or more importantly, how does a leader make so many poor decisions that their team becomes burnt out, or their companies destruct?

We can point to lots of factors, but one key thread is a lack of empathy.

Before we make the case for Empathetic Leadership, let’s lay some groundwork:

Defining Leadership

Leading is the act of inspiring and guiding people towards a common goal.

Simple, right?

Not so much.

The challenge is that many managers and leaders got into their positions by being good at what they do, not for being great at leading teams.

The Crisis

As leaders grew, they were taught or experienced one of three unhealthy practices:

  1. Focusing on outcomes at all costs
  2. Creating space and affirming people who look and think like them — lacking diversity & inclusivity.
  3. Pursuing their own career advancement without supporting the growth and development of their team(s).

There are countless nuances around these three pitfalls, but every leader has come face-to-face with at least one. And if someone leads with any of these (or god forbid, all three), the teams they’re building are likely to fracture.

The Antidote

Empathy is the ability to understand and share how someone else is feeling. And since leadership is about inspiring and guiding people, the core of leadership is understanding people. Now if you think I’m about to light a candle and do a trust fall, keep reading. You probably need this the most.

Empathetic Leadership is bringing people together to achieve goals sustainably.

But how?

Believe, Belong, Become

To shift from outcomes, silos, and self-centeredness, there’s a core framework any leader can implement to lead with empathy.

  • Believe: Empathetic Leaders don’t just tie their work to tangible outcomes, they have a sense of purpose and enroll others in it. And they help other teammates shape their own purpose — understanding that core motivators are different for each person.
  • Belong: Empathetic Leaders understand the importance of psychological safety and move beyond their silos to create diverse teams where individuals feel accepted and safe to be who they are.
  • Become: Empathetic Leaders define success beyond their title and paycheck. And they help others shape their own paths for growth.

Empathetic Leadership in Practice

Last Thursday, we hosted a workshop on this very framework. Thanks to my dear friend Tina, and our gracious host Exa, and the community at Creative Mornings, the Ei team shared it with nearly 200 people from around the world — many of whom are now reading this Wednesday Words (glad you’re here)!

For each step, we guided participants through one simple practice to make the shift towards Empathetic Leadership.

Now, we’re opening a month-long experience for managers and leaders to make the shift together. This is another open experience designed for any growing leader — whether you’re inside a company or currently in transition.

If you’d like to join us, learn more and join the first cohort here. It’s going to be special.


Banner illustration by Milica Golubović on Behance

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