Are you empathic?

The role of empathy in leadership. And why we are going to fail without it.
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If you are someone who works for brands, then I have a simple question for you. Do you have empathy? Do you lead brands with empathy? Yes? Then you are an exception.

Less than 10%

An older study by the University of Bremen suggested that the proportion of empathic people is less than 10%. And the University of Michigan concluded in 2010 that the ability of compassion (not empathy) with today’s students is 40% lower than it was in the 1970s. That was in 2010, and the trend continues to fall. Perhaps this explains why our impression of being surrounded by more and more ignorant, intolerant, selfish and socially aggressive people is a sad fact. Researchers believe that competition decreases compassion. And we are surrounded by the logic of competition. Not only in business. The so-called social media increase this competition in the area of the private and the interpersonal.

Empathy and competition seem to be at odds. Really?

I think that empathy is the key to today’s competition. I even believe that empathy is the dimension that sets us apart from machines and algorithms. Creativity, ideas, inventions, even compassion can now be replicated and created by algorithms. On a level that most of us do not have (and on a level that for example facebooks AI unit had to stop to further keep control. Remember?)

But one quality stands out there: real empathy.

Without empathy there would be no fascinating innovations, without empathy there would be no irresistible design and there would be no music that truly captivates us. Everything that needs an audience, everything that needs a „market“, everything that needs other humans (!), all of this works in an outstanding way only through the key of empathy.

Sure: it does work without

It will work without empathy – but not outstandingly. And we observe that in the majority of all brands. Works, but not outstanding, not fascinating, not captivating, not unique.

The principle of Apple was once to transfer the technically possible into the most humane possible. By the principles of liberal arts: creative, autonomous, independent and committed to no other than that empathic idea. (check youtube for „Steve Jobs, Technology & Liberal Arts“). That was the „why“ of Apple. And that’s pretty much the opposite of what Apple is now. It was revolutionary – but revolution was not the „why“. The outstanding dimension was empathy and that was the reason why the brand reached the most emphatic of us first, and all others right way.

That case tells a lot about the magic that real empathy can bring to people – and what happens to a brand when empathy is no longer a key quality. Tim Cook seems to suspect that as he always refers to Steve Jobs. He tries to keep a long gone brand-spirit alive. Nice try.

How about you?

Do you work with tools that contain empathic dimensions? I am not talking consumer insights or emotional benefits. I am talking the empathy of you and your brand. If yes, you own the most valuable key to stand out in our world of competition.

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