Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

The Balance Between Empathy & Leadership

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Empathy is one of the most valuable resources in relationships and leadership. It gives us the ability to put ourselves in another persons shoes.

There is no leadership with relationship, and no relationship without empathy. 

All of us have differing degrees of empathy that we naturally access and we can increase this capacity by reducing stress, being more self aware and engaging in emotional intelligence training.  

In a business situation, we need to find a balance of empathy and leadership.

Sarah Boyd

Leaders without empathy treat people inappropriately, loosing team trust and contribute to lower team morale and productivity.

Leaders with too much empathy often have high levels of stress and burnout, and feel ineffective meeting team & organisational goals. 


The most effective way to balance empathy and leadership in a business situation is to use cognitive empathy, or perspective taking.

Perspective taking is the intellectual or cognitive understanding of another person (but not as much focus on their feelings & emotions). 


One study found that using this strategy in a business negotiation situation significantly increased the teams ability to find the hidden agenda of the other team; while engaging in empathy (both the thoughts & feelings of another) was actually detrimental to the negotiation process.


Perspective taking is what is most important in leadership and business situations. 

Engaging in perspective taking (cognitive empathy) also causes greater levels of personal self regulation in leaders. Where high levels of empathy for others can increase a leaders stress response.



1. What might they be thinking?

2. If I was in their shoes, what would I be thinking?

3. When I have previous been in their situation, what was I thinking?


1. Remember your primary role in their life is a leader: outside of extenuating circumstances, you are there to lead, bring out the best in them and others, and achieve team & organisational goals.

2. You are not their counsellor or family member:

3. Focus on their cognitive perspective, not what they are feeling.


In leadership and business we need to find a balance of empathy levels that contributes to our goals, treats other people with respect and doesn’t drain all your personal emotional energy. 

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.