I learnt very early in my life and my career that connecting with and helping people were the most essential  cogs in building relationships of trust.

Among many character values that are required to living a good life – Empathy rated very high on my list.

Empathy allowed me to connect, to listen, to focus on the needs of each person. Not only did I establish Trust – I was better able to achieve the best outcome for others, while improving my own character and life. It was always a great feeling to know I had helped someone to improve their day – and they also taught me so very much.

When my Pharmacy team was small I had direct contact with them and all my customers. It was easier to influence my team at the same time. And so was building a Servant Leadership culture.

My point so far is that a Leader needs to focus on his or her people. Who are his or her people?

As a team expands in number and the business possibly increases the number of sites – the focus of a leader changes.

In this case the Leader’s job is to Delegate, to Teach, to Trust and to Track the members of the team or teams. These are the Leader’s People. The leader then relies on the team/s to deliver that same Empathy to all customers.

Servant Leaders build leaders. Servant Leaders are dealers in HOPE.

This is the type of leadership we need in the 21st Century. Not the hierarchy of yester year. And yet as Ego continues to be the “Gold Standard” – fear, confusion and insecurity continue to dominate.

Empathy is sadly lacking in most high profile leaders. Their quest is usually about keeping the Shareholders happy, or watching their popularity on social media. While all the time their people – the ones who are actually responsible for creating the goods, the service and the infrastructure – are either ignored or condemned.

The focus of a CEO of a large company, or a Department Head – should be on their team and not on the Shareholders or those who decide on his or her position.

Politicians should be listening to the people who voted them in and not be guided by the polling on social media. No wonder we have so much confusion, stagnation and chaos.

Empathy means that we focus on our team/s by learning more about each member, by helping each of them find what they would like to achieve. The outcome is building Confidence, Respect, Excellence and Loyalty.

People will help you achieve your goals if you help them achieve theirs.

  • Empathy helps to reduce fear and insecurity. When the leader is ‘small’ enough to interact with the team/s and is prepared to ‘get into the trenches’ when required – the bonds of TRUST and RESPECT are tightly formed.
  • Empathy allows the Leader to help and to serve others.
  • Empathy brings peace of mind and unity.
  • Empathy reduces stress and worry.
  • Empathy helps people to make better choices and to be responsible and accountable for the consequences of these choices (good or bad).

There is a constant discussion about the difference between a Leader and a Manager. The following chart shows the different roles very clearly.

Leaders versus Managers

Leader Manager
Leadership is figuring out the right/best things to do Managing is doing these things right
Without a manager there is chaos Without a leader there is (well) the Government – lack of vision, courage and culture
Determines the Quality expected and the direction of the company Ensures these are done accurately and efficiently
Looks for the WHAT the WHERE and the WHY Looks after the HOW and by WHEN
Paints the picture – The vision- of what is possible – the Path to take – Ensures the train turns up on time and everyone knows what to do and does it
Focus is on People Focus is on Process
People follow Leaders People report to Managers
Keeps eyes on the horizon – on the Vision Keeps eyes on the bottom line
Champions the Vision and the welfare of People Drives goals
Sells ideas, the vision and the culture Tells people what to do and what is expected
Takes risks Minimises those risks
Focused on the Long term Focused on the Short term
Charts new roads Follows the map
Votes with Heart Votes with Head


John Wooden best explains Servant Leadership and clearly shows how important Empathy is to Leadership:

“Who shall be first among you, shall be your servant. Who puts focus on followers and makes their dream come true. Who does not say ‘let’s go’ – but says ‘let’s go’ and leads the way. Who glorifies team spirit and duplicates this in others. Who helps other grow big, because the bigger and better the team – the better they all are. Who has faith in people, who believes in them, and trusts them, who has a sense of humour, who is interested in finding the best way, who looks for lofty goals and extends the skills and legacy of all the team”

Do not be afraid to Trust and Help others.

Be confident that Empathy combined with Servant Leadership is the new way – the best way to build individuals, families, community, businesses and society.

The pervading forces of Anger, Vitriol, Criticism, Condemnation, Ridicule and Fear – just DO NOT work.

Read more about Leadership and Service in my book “Design a Good Life