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Empathetic Leadership with Patricia Bravo, Author and Expert

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

Patricia Bravo is determined to help the world build better leaders by teaching others how to master the skill of empathetic leadership. I've personally benefited from her coaching in our Mastermind group - she really knows her stuff.

In this week's interview, she shares how this came to be a passion of hers and what being an empathetic leader looks like.

How and when did we first meet?

We met circa 2006 during my routine travels from Southern California to Starbucks headquarters in Seattle. We were part of the extended team helping accelerate leader capabilities for our clients during a time of growth. I got to know you better when you invited me to work on a Learning & Development project to evaluate learning modalities. Little did we know how the world of Learning was about to change!

Your area of expertise is empathetic leadership. What does it mean to be an empathetic leader and why is it so important in today's work world?

An Empathetic Leader is one who intentionally focuses on activating understanding of others. Not being understood at work has an impact on team members. It drives disconnection, disengagement and unplugging…all of which affect performance and productivity – two things critically important to leaders to accomplish their work. Empathy is a bridge to understanding. It’s important in today’s work world because leaders who consistently lead with empathy differentiate themselves and gain an advantage, increasing their results. They develop engaged and committed team members who offer added high-quality work effort and multiply productivity, a necessity in today’s business landscape.

You're writing a book on empathetic leadership. What motivated you to do this?

I had a lot of people asking “how” to lead with empathy. While they appreciated the concept, when it came time to put it into practice, they struggled with applying techniques. I realized I could put those techniques in the hands of leaders by sharing the framework I developed, sprinkle in some research and weave in stories about leaders who have achieved success using this approach.

I've sometimes had a hard time delineating between empathy and sympathy as a leader. Break it down for me!

You’re not alone. I often get asked about the difference between empathy, sympathy and compassion. Empathy is about understanding the experience of another and joining up with them in it. Compassion is one response you can choose as a result of understanding someone’s experience. Sympathy is about observing someone’s experience from a distance.

What is one step a leader can take to enhance their empathy skills?

A simple – and not so easy - step is to identify that one person on your team you struggle the most to relate to (you know who they are!) and take steps to relate. See if you can find a connection in your own experience and let them know you have some appreciation for their circumstance. If you truly can’t relate, take that as a sign to ask thoughtful questions about their experience so you can uncover the connection.

Patricia's rapid fire round:

  • One personal goal for the upcoming year: Courage

  • Biggest lesson learned last year: Persistence

  • One thing I call you most often for: Resources

  • Favorite blogger/social media idol: Adam Grant

  • Favorite place to soak in the sunshine: Corona del Mar, CA

  • What you do when you need a"time out": Retreat

  • What makes you LOL: Things Kids Say

Patricia is a consultant, speaker and author who advises clients on effective leadership. With an emphasis on Empathetic Leadership, she draws on her over 20 years of experience in talent management to accelerate client capability. She teaches undergraduate courses at University of Washington, Bothelland professionals at UCLA Extension. You can learn more about Patricia at

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