Chess pieces in red and black“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”

– John Kenneth Galbraith


Working and living in the third year of a pandemic continues to challenge us all, both in the way we do business, and the way we live. One of the words I’ve been hearing the most from my Vida Aventura clients is anxiety. That’s why the quote by John Kenneth Galbraith resonated with me. It’s a common feeling among employees, teams, leaders, and people in general. However, the point that isn’t quite clear in his quote is that effectively leading – and confronting “the major anxiety of their people in their time – requires a whole set of traits and skills. That’s why, when I’m asked to describe the traits that make good leaders, my answers are much more detailed. 

Along with anxiety, another word I’m hearing regularly is empathy. I’ve explored this many times in my Vida Aventura blogs, and most recently, with my co-host Michelle Freed in a Cuban & Sooner Work-Life Teetering podcast episode ( Listen to podcast episode here: Red Flags at Work: Top 10 Warning Signs).

Empathy is also emphasized in this article from Cigna Corporation: The Skills and Traits of Successful Leaders in 2022. What I love about it is that they spoke with Cigna Corporation leaders to “get their takes on four key skills and traits leaders need in order to be successful in 2022 and actionable insights on how to build them.” Here are some of the key takeaways:

Why Empathy Is So Important

When discussing the traits of self-aware leaders, I’ve stressed over and over how important empathy is – it’s part of having emotional intelligence. When you approach challenges, team building and goals from a place of empathy, it helps create positive team dynamics and aids in everything from addressing day-to-day challenges to holding difficult conversations. In addition, when leaders are empathic and make people their top priority, organizations experience big benefits.

The Cigna article adds a great perspective regarding the mental health aspect. “For leaders, the ability to demonstrate empathy in the workplace is more important now than ever, particularly when it comes to the mental health and well-being of their people. Research from Cigna and the Economist found that 38% of employees and executives surveyed rank fatigue, stress, and burnout as the largest barriers to business success today.”

Leadership Tips for Practicing Empathy

Hollie Ward, vice president of enterprise learning and development at Cigna, offers these three tips in the article for practicing empathy immediately: 

            • Lead by example
            • Embrace one-on-one interaction
            • Encourage opportunities for open dialogue

I outlined additional steps corporate leaders can take to lead with empathy in a previous blog, New Study Shows Empathy is Must-Have Trait for Great Leadership. They include:

            • Build cohesive teams
            • Be transparent
            • Communicate clearly
            • Set expectations


How to Develop Leadership Skills

Developing leadership skills is an ongoing process. There are immediate things  you can do to practice empathy, as was mentioned before. But corporate cultures are always shifting, which is why leaders must constantly respond to industry changes and trends. Whether you need to up your empathy game, or are interested in more effective ways to build cohesive teams, Vida Aventura Leadership Development Programs can help you get there.



Feature image Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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