1. Define Sympathy, Empathy, Compassion.
  2. Bring out the differences between them.
  3. Discuss the role of empathy in leadership (with e.g.)

Sympathy: It is a feeling and expression of concern for someone, it implies a deeper, more personal, level of concern than pity.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective, and feelings. It is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

Compassion: It is an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering, it involves a sense of empathy, however it does not end with it. It invokes sensibilities to understand and even feel the pain of others and motivates one to be truly helpful in overcoming this pain.

Major differences between the three are:

  • Sympathy and empathy are both acts of feeling, but with sympathy, you feel for the person; you are sorry for them or pity them, but don’t specifically understand what they are feeling. However, in empathy, to an extent you are placing yourself in that person’s place, to have a good sense of what he feels and understand his feelings.
  • Compassion, on the other hand, involves an active desire to alleviate one’s suffering. It is a better indicator of behaviour. Sympathy typically implies that the suffering person does not “deserve” what has happened to him or her and is powerless to do anything about it.
  • Empathy is a skilled response, while sympathy is reactive responses, which is why developing the skill of empathy is a more realistic goal for public services.
  • Empathy seems to suggest a response to situations that are more subtle, imperceptible and complex which require cognitive skills to perceive, share, understand and put into action.

Role of empathy in leadership :

Empathy makes an individual more patient. A good leader thinks about the welfare of people. His/her decisions should be directed towards improving the lives of his people. Thus empathy plays an important role in ensuring a kind and welfare centric approach. Ex: A public official needs to be empathetic towards problems faced by women for collecting drinking water so as to make the necessary arrangements.

Empathy leads to the acceptability of diverse thoughts; working across cultures requires leaders to understand people who have very different perspectives and experiences. Empathy generates interests and appreciation for others, paving the way to more productive working relationships.

Empathy helps leaders in understanding how someone feels or considers the effects of the decisions and the larger public. Thus it helps in generating a middle ground and allowing time for compassionate reflection and response.

In a diverse country like India, where many are riddled with vulnerabilities, empathy would enable public servants to work with dedication & professional integrity.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish September 13, 2022