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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cristina DiPietropolo

To be, or not to be a socially aware leader - Part 1

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo

Advancing Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness

To be, or not to be a socially aware leader, that is the question. We are all familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence (EI), which refers to recognizing and managing one's own emotions and others' emotions. But how does social awareness, one of the elements of EI, impact your organization? Social awareness comprises two actions: (1) empathy and (2) organizational awareness.

Research has provided evidence that executives' emotional intelligence (or the lack of EI) has a direct impact on performance. It is estimated that 90% of top performers have high EI. A study at PepsiCo found that company business units headed by leaders with well-developed emotional intelligence skills out-performed yearly revenue targets. Nevertheless, study after study validate that poor leadership destroys the emotional well-being, loyalty, and productivity of their employees.[i] According to an article published by Leslie & Van Velso[ii], the primary derailers for people in managerial positions are a lack of emotional self-awareness, emotional self-control, empathy, and persuasive influence. In this two-part series, we will begin by focusing on showing empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand other people's emotional makeup and the skill to treat people according to their emotional reactions. It's the capability of showing compassion in understanding other's thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints. You may be thinking, "So What!" How can being an empathetic and compassionate leader develop a team and impact your organization? Employees emulate their leaders' behaviors (either good or bad). Suppose you are a leader who demonstrates empathy to your employees. In turn, they will emulate those positive behaviors and show compassion to better understand and meet your customers' needs.

Here are a few tips on how to apply empathy within an organizational setting:

  • Be present in the moment and engaged in the conversation. No one likes talking to someone who is continually checking text messages or emails on their phone.

  • Pay close attention to body language, especially the person's feet. People typically work very hard to control their facial expressions and the positioning of their upper body. Still, their feet often give them away and provide essential clues for you to interpret.

  • Practice the art of listening, which requires you to be patient, open-minded, and judgmental. Listen carefully to fully understand what is being communicated instead of waiting for an opportunity to respond.

"Empathy works so well because it does not require a solution. It requires only understanding."

~John Medina

Do you have your own tips for becoming a more socially aware leader? What has been your experience interacting with a leader who demonstrated empathy?

Leave a comment below or send us an email at

Dr. Cristina Rosario DiPietropolo is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience across multiple industries and highly skilled in the areas of strategic planning, organizational behavior, human resource management, change management, and leadership. Over ten years of teaching experience as a university professor of management, with a special focus on leadership in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and international management.

________________________________ [i] Pfeffer, J & R. I. Sutton (2006). Hard facts, dangerous half-truths and total nonsense: profiting from evidence-based management, Harvard Business School Press, Boston. [ii] Leslie, J. B & Van Velson, E. (1996). A look at derailment today: North America and Europe, Center for Creative Leadership.

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