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Empathy in Leadership: Appropriate or Misplaced? An Empirical Study on a Topic that is Asking for Attention

Abstract

Leadership has become a more popular term than management, even though it is understood that both phenomena represent important organizational behaviors. This paper focuses on empathy in leadership, and presents the findings of a study conducted among business students over the course of 3 years. Finding that empathy consistently ranked lowest in the ratings, the researchers set out to discover the driving motives behind this invariable trend, and conducted a second study to obtain opinions about possible underlying factors. The paper presents the findings of both studies, as well as literature reviews on the differences between management and leadership, a historical overview of leadership, a reflection of 21st century leadership, the ongoing debate on the effects of corporate psychopaths on ethical performance, and scholars’ perception on empathy in corporate leadership. The findings indicate the need for a paradigm shift in corporations as well as business schools in regards to leaders’ required skills, and suggest a proactive approach from business faculty to change the current paradigm.

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Correspondence to Joan Marques.

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Holt, S., Marques, J. Empathy in Leadership: Appropriate or Misplaced? An Empirical Study on a Topic that is Asking for Attention. J Bus Ethics 105, 95–105 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-0951-5

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Keywords

  • Empathy
  • Leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Narcissism
  • Psychopaths
  • Servant leadership
  • Social skills