With COVID-19 taking the entire world by storm, we have been witnessing a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions. Aggravating the impact, the virus has also become the sole source of the greatest economic crisis in all of history. Given the population density, which is magnified by inefficient and inadequate healthcare along with a total lack of social security, our country had its fair share of challenges while handling the situation. That said, leaders, both in the government as well as businesses are being tested for administrative capacity, leadership skills, and most importantly, for their sensitivity quotient.
Let’s face it: business leadership is based on several key principles. In today’s times, the traditional pursuit of profit, growth, and vision are all taking a backseat and the virtue that has the most significance is empathy. While empathy refers to our sheer ability to fathom emotions or distress faced by another person, the question is – what exactly does empathy translate to when it comes to leadership?
Well, it is important to understand that empathy and compassion have mostly been the very foundation of outcomes that transformed the course of organisations as well as nations. One such example of leadership would be of Mahatma Gandhi - whose leadership was a product of empathy for the poor and marginalised in India. To help you understand this better, below is a list of some of the best, inspirational, and most empathetic leaders in our country.
The Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Finserv, Sanjiv Bajaj, is certainly an entrepreneurial success in the financial services domain. Being so not only demands experience and expertise, but also empathy in strategising products and services that actually help people. For instance, during the raging war against COVID-19, Bajaj Group aided in the procurement of 12 oxygen plants to provide more than 5,000 litre per minute of oxygen supply to both rural as well as urban hospitals. With an aim to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bajaj Group had also pledged to donate Rs. 200 crore during the second wave. This financial contribution was used to do away with the immediate threats posed by the deadly virus, such as a lack of medicines, oxygen and hospital beds and also for building capability as well as resources so as to tackle a possible third wave with sheer efficacy. This was in addition to Rs. 100 crore donated by the Group during the first wave, back in 2020.
Besides leading the Bajaj Education Initiative and the Bajaj E-Learning Project, Bajaj Group, currently headed by Sanjiv Bajaj- one of the most famous financial leaders, has stood the test of time, standing strong with the government, communities as well as local authorities, continuously striving to make a positive difference to the society.
While many business leaders have been embodying the concept of empathy as an integral part of their leadership, one such example is that of Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft Corporation. According to him, he puts empathy at the centre of everything that he is about to pursue - from new product launches, new markets, to customers, employees, and partners his company would choose to work with.
He is a firm believer of the fact that it is not likes or the number of shares that determines the success of your business, but its impact on humanity, the lives touched, and people served. He also believes that although there will be a lot of people who consider empathy should be kept out of leadership, he emphatically warns us against accepting this false premise of leadership.
Eminently known not only for his intellectual and scholastic achievements but also for his immensely positive spirit, Shiv Nadar, the former Founder and Chairman Emeritus of HCL and the Shiv Nadar Foundation, is an Indian billionaire industrialist. Shiv Nadar is globally respected for his work in developing missile guidance algorithms and intelligent control.
Being amongst some of the most famous empathetic leaders, his area of research involved stability and control along with large-scale optimisation. A great mentor with his irreverent wisdom, he is always talked about for his cheerful spirit, empathetic leadership as well as the enormous legacy of the university and the company he helped build from scratch.
One of the most successful, brilliant, and intelligent leaders in the world, Ratan Tata single-handedly took the Tata Group to monumental pinnacles. His illustrious career spanning over 20 years led to a dramatic increase in the revenues of the company. It was under his able leadership that the Tata Group emerged victorious on many bold and legendary deals, one such being the Jaguar Land Rover acquisition back in 2008.
While there are too many lessons to learn from Ratan Tata’s tenure, ‘caring for all – the community and his employees’, is precisely what has made him a hero, known for his trust, values, and veracity. Ratan Tata’s first job at the Tata Steel factory was to operate the blast furnace and shovel limestone. This humility and interaction with grassroots workers are exactly what enabled him to develop a better understanding, as he went on to play bigger roles in the company.
A lack of empathy unhinges the leader from the people that he or she leads. However, when leaders embrace empathy as part of their business or as a core virtue, the outcomes are dramatically positive, whether in terms of business or politics.