Bronwen Sciortino Of sheIQ Life: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Retention: research shows that when women experienced empathetic leadership and felt their companies respected and valued their personal circumstances, around 60% indicated they were unlikely to consider quitting. But only around 20% stated they were unlikely to consider leaving if they didn’t feel that level of value or respect for their current situation.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is increasingly recognized as a pivotal leadership trait. In an ever-evolving business landscape, leaders who exhibit genuine empathy are better equipped to connect, inspire, and drive their teams towards success. But how exactly does empathy shape leadership dynamics? How can it be harnessed to foster stronger relationships, improved decision-making, and a more inclusive work environment? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Bronwen Sciortino.

Bronwen Sciortino is an International Author and Simplicity Expert who spent almost two decades as an award-winning executive before experiencing a life changing event that forced her to stop and ask the question ‘What if there’s a better way to live?’

Embarking on a journey to answer this question, Bronwen uncovered a simple system to challenge the status quo and use the power of questions to purposefully direct life.

Gaining international critical acclaim and 5-star awards for her books and programs, Bronwen spends every day teaching people that there is an easy, practical and simple pathway to creating a healthy, happy AND highly successful life.

Sourced globally for media comment as an expert and working with corporate programs, conference platforms, retreats, professional mentoring and in the online environment, Bronwen teaches people how easy it is to live life very differently.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about empathy, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in Tasmania which is a beautiful island at the bottom of Australia. As a child I loved playing outdoors, playing sports of any and every kind and hanging out with my animals. 

I followed the ‘right’ path and went to University and graduated with an Economics degree and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do next. With no real understanding of how I wanted to apply my new educational skills, I found myself applying for a position in the financial services sector and thus began a career of almost two decades working within financial planning and funds management organisations. 

I achieved a lot and had great success in my endeavours, never understanding that being stuck in an industry that wasn’t a match for me was spiralling my perfectionist tendencies in the background. 

I pushed myself so hard and for so long that I broke; my life shattering into a million pieces on the floor around me in a moment that would change my life forever. 

Recovery from a breakdown is never pretty and mine was certainly no exception. I had to take one painful step at a time to slowly work towards recovery. I had to go into all the dark, deep corners of myself and rebuild “Bronwen 2.0” over the course of two years of intense, intrusive, and stressful effort. 

And that was only to return to a place where I could cope with the basics of life. It took me an additional year to gain the stability I needed to lead the vibrant, engaged, connected and simple life I do now. 

These days, I spend my time teaching people – wherever they may be in the world – how to create the life they want for themselves. 

I show them that knowing what you want, and then creating simple and practical steps to get there, is the key to creating a happy, healthy AND highly successful life. 

You get to choose how complicated and complex you allow your life to be, and I often tell people that the best complexity is the kind that keeps things simple. 

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Letting my intuitive abilities develop has probably been one of the most fascinating things that has happened to me since I began my work in health and wellness. 

In the world we live in, we are taught that anything even remotely obscure is either improper or should be avoided, or both! 

I observed that as I got over my breakdown and began to rebuild and restructure who I AM, I found myself turning more and more towards understanding my intuition – what it is, how deep it is, and how I can use it to benefit others as well as myself. 

I gave up attempting to manage it, reduce its size, or get rid of it. Rather, I gave it permission to become a part of my daily existence. 

To my amazement, I discovered that it was quite helpful, and the more freedom I gave it, the more information it provided at just the right time. 

It’s interesting to note that I now write practically all of my books, content for my programs and articles with my intuition turned on. I essentially get fed the facts and questions I need to ask while I’m working with a group of individuals. 

I am much more powerful in performing my role in the world now that I have given this aspect of myself a platform in the light. 

I no longer feel afraid to use my unique gift to help others make big changes in their life; instead, I use it to make myself different and unique. 

This indicates that I am actively and purposefully living out my life’s purpose every single day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe that what I do stands out because it gives people the pathway to step into the freedom they so desperately need and want in their lives.

Because I teach people how to move away from following, and move into actively and consciously creating the life that is perfect for them, it provides real solutions for people who desperately need a release from the suffocating and cloying lifestyles that are making them ill.

Today’s health and wellness industry turns over trillions of dollars, but most of the products and services are generic and don’t really provide effective solutions to individuals.

The tools and resources I create are all focused on helping people to break away from the manipulative sales and marketing processes and the control that FOMO and YOLO have on life, and instead provide people the pathway to understand what’s happening for them and then create the solution that works best for them.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each? 

I have a lot of characteristics that have aided me in achieving success. Three characteristics—self-reliance, intuition, and connection—have been very important in underpinning and shaping my journey.

When things have been a little harder than usual, being independent has helped me figure out what to do next to keep moving forward. Everybody experiences ups and downs in life, and more and more often the experience within the downs is more intense than we’ve ever seen before. My independence has made it so much simpler for me to go through these trying times because I can rely on myself and have a strong belief in my abilities. It has been my experience that making important decisions and having the flexibility to take unexpected turns when necessary is made simpler when you are independent.

Additionally, it has been so much simpler to take life steps since I have learned the art of self-compassion and given myself the same ‘break’ in life that I so readily grant to everyone else. It has simplified my life to one of joy and laughter, which is a far better way to go about things.

My increased awareness of what is going on, both in the ‘here and now’ and over time, is a result of my connection—both to myself and to the needs of the Universe. Developing this quality has allowed me to let go of resistance and adapt to the demands of the moment, instead of attempting to push things along or fight against things that aren’t working. One of the most difficult things I had to learn when growing my awareness was to give up control and stop attempting to affect and direct events. Letting go of trying to control everything has taught me that knowledge can still flow when you have faith in your relationship with the Universe and yourself.

Being connected allows you to access information on what is necessary for both you and other people. This quality has also enabled me to produce goods and services (such as my books and online courses) that provide people with the knowledge required to make their own connections as well as a step-by-step guide to help them choose their own future.

Being connected to yourself provides you with a strong sense of knowing that you can rely on and trust, but you also realise that you need to use that knowing to support both other people and yourself.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

I recently had a situation where I was contracted to ghost write the story for an incredible woman. We were about a quarter of the way through the contract when things suddenly went sideways for no apparent reason. 

As I delved into the situation that had arisen, it transpired that this woman didn’t really understand words, and that what she wanted was to be provided with pictures that showed her the work I had done.

I had two paths in front of me.

I could stay working on this contract, have an additional 18 months of contracted income being generated and try to find a way to provide information in a format that was foreign to the way I work. Or, I could walk away from the contract and move in a different direction.

There was a lot of ‘safety’ in staying and completing the contract. I had a lot of respect for the woman I was writing about, and truly believed that her story should be shared with the world. But I also knew in my heart that we had very different value systems, and that continuing with the contract would likely result in more instances of things going sideways.

Despite not knowing what was on pathway #2, I knew that standing in the truth of my values was a better result for both myself and the woman I was writing for, and so I chose to close the contract and move forward into the unknown.

Choices and decisions aren’t always easy. In challenging times they can be really hard. My experience has been that when you align your decisions with your values you will always end up where you’re supposed to be.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define empathy in a leadership context, and why do you believe it’s a vital trait for leaders to possess in today’s work environment?

Being empathetic as a leader is being aware of others’ needs as well as their feelings and opinions. 

Today’s business world may well be fast-paced and ‘cut throat’ in so many ways, but it’s also moved past the ruthless ‘kill or be killed’ mentality of old. 

The true form of self-care is making a come-back and taking the place of ‘the hustle’. 

The focus of ‘…always be closing’ is finally being replaced with ‘…always be connecting’ in sales and marketing strategies. 

We want actual relationships, not to be told what to do in the constant barrage of information and entertainment. Our desire for empathetic leadership is finally being recognised.

Since empathy is the foundation of all leadership philosophies, it is necessary for us to connect with others before we try to influence them in any way. However, despite this, empathetic leadership is still too often disregarded as a soft skill rather than a necessary one. 

More and more, corporate executives are becoming aware of the significance of empathy in leadership, and it is starting to filter through as a desired skill that is sought through recruitment processes. 

Can you share a personal experience where showing empathy as a leader significantly impacted a situation or relationship in your organization?

When I was in the very early stages of my career, I was being bullied by a co-worker who decided that it was a fine game to make my life miserable as often as they could. 

They succeeded in having a bonus taken away from me, having me hauled in front of my manager regularly for ‘things’ I was supposed to have done and the like. One day, they decided that they would regularly park in my car park and force me to park somewhere that wasn’t convenient for me to be able to do my job.

I was young, I was relatively new to my workplace and I didn’t want to be seen to be making ‘waves’, but I also didn’t want to continue to allow this person to impact my day-to-day experience in the workplace.

I remember going to speak to the Director of my division (who was my Manager’s boss) and asked them for their advice on how to handle the situation. It was their empathy towards the situation that showed me that there was another perspective that could give me so many other options of ways to move forward.

The Director showed me that I could step around this person and take the wind out of their sails. He helped me to move my desk location so I wasn’t in the same vicinity and gave me a car park that was even more convenient that the one that had been ‘taken’ away. He also helped change my position description so that my job was varied just enough that I didn’t have to have much interaction with that person anymore. 

There was no confrontation, no awkwardness and no conversation about who was right or wrong. Just a clear message that there was another way to do things where both parties could go about their day in a different way.

That completely changed my experience of the workplace and it embedded within me a style of leadership that I took forward with me as my career grew and developed.

How do empathetic leaders strike a balance between understanding their team’s feelings and making tough decisions that might not be universally popular?

This can be a tough challenge to overcome as an empathetic leader. 

When managers show empathy and compassion, the people they’re dealing with are generally more motivated to work hard and will flourish in a supportive environment. 

On the other hand, it’s important to make sure that the empathy and compassion don’t create a situation where people think it’s OK to ignore their responsibilities and don’t get the job done. 

Empathy is the capacity to put oneself in another person’s shoes and consider situations from their point of view in order to comprehend how they are feeling. As a result, empathetic leadership tends to create a more positive work environment where employees are more engaged and willing to work in a highly connected way. 

Improved employer-employee relations depend on having clear expectations for work. Leaders can’t always make decisions that are popular with every individual in the organisation. That’s where empathetic skills can assist in making sure that everyone understands exactly what is expected of them, what the deadlines and deliverables are and what duties each individual is responsible for fulfilling. 

Empathetic leaders can still make accountability a priority and then give staff members just enough freedom to meet goals in their own unique ways, whilst also providing the necessary support system to ensure that tasks are completed on time. 

Once expectations are established, everyone has a responsibility to follow through on their promises. Great empathetic leadership then builds in regular check-points and check-ins with their team members so that there is an opportunity for ongoing and careful consideration around when expectations aren’t being reached and provide the necessary support to encourage a change in behaviour.

How would you differentiate between empathy and sympathy in leadership? Why is it important for leaders to distinguish between the two?

Knowing the distinctions between sympathy and empathy will enable you to select the one that is most suitable for your situation.

The distinction between sympathy and empathy is very important. Unlike sympathy, which doesn’t require feeling what another person feels, empathy does. Rather, empathy is the ability to comprehend another person’s feelings while maintaining your own point of view.

Sometimes a sympathetic reaction is more appropriate, even when empathy fosters a stronger relationship.

The capacity to comprehend and feel another person’s emotions is known as empathy. Being empathic allows you to hear other people out without passing judgement. With empathy, your personal experiences do not limit your potential to connect. Regardless of their individual experiences, an empathic person is capable of experiencing another person’s feelings.

In contrast to empathy, developing sympathy does not entail experiencing another person’s emotions. Rather, you experience sympathy or regret for the emotions of others.

You have sympathy for someone, but you don’t know their situation.

A sympathetic attitude merely offers a cursory comprehension of another person’s circumstances. Usually, you are the one having this understanding, not them.

What are some practical strategies or exercises that leaders can employ to cultivate and enhance their empathetic skills?

There are a number of ways to practice your empathetic skills so that they are improved over time. 

The good news is that research shows that while empathy may be partly an innate skill, it can also be learned and enhanced over time. Irrespective of whether it is innate or learned, the research shows that practicing empathetic skills regularly will help your skill level to improve.

Here’s a few activities to help you practice and grow your empathy skills:

  • Regularly spend time outside your comfort zone. Put yourself in situations that force you to grow and develop so that you can better connect with and understand what it feels like to be uncomfortable. The experience of being a beginner and learning something from scratch will embed compassion within you – and that’s a key characteristic of empathy.
  • Experience new cultures as often as you can. When you get firsthand experience of another culture it grows your perspective of what other people experience as ‘normal’. 
  • Get out of your head. Often our thoughts lead us down paths that aren’t always where the facts of a situation lie. When we’re in our head, we’re more likely to connect to emotion, whereas when we spend time in our heart we’re more likely to see that someone else might be experiencing the same situation in a different way.
  • Regularly explore other people’s experience of life. Walk in their shoes, understand what it is like for them to experience the same situation that you do. Talk to them about what they see, feel and experience to get a better understanding of other perspectives.
  • Remember that we all have unconscious biases. We often don’t know they’re there (they’re unconscious, after all) but when you deliberately set out to look for them you’ll find that you think certain things about certain situations that colour the way you see a situation. 
  • Get curious about the world. What can you learn from the situation and the people in it. What’s a new perspective that you haven’t seen before?
  • Use questions to help guide your way. Questions help to separate the emotion from the facts of a situation and that helps you to get a clearer picture for all sides.

How can empathy help leaders navigate the complexities of leading diverse teams and ensure inclusivity?

Why is empathy crucial to inclusiveness and diversity? 

It acts as the cornerstone of diversity, equity and inclusion by encouraging a climate of mutual respect, tolerance, and cohesion among coworkers. Empathetic leadership encourages diverse viewpoints and experiences which brings respect and inclusivity into the workplace. 

Because of its inclusivity, workers feel more like they belong, which improves happiness within individuals and work and job satisfaction across the workforce.

Higher competency and empathy levels in managers allow them to provide more possibilities for their staff, encourage fair team dynamics, and foster conditions that encourage optimal performance.


Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership”?

Although empathy has always been a vital leadership trait, its significance and importance are growing. It is by no means a soft approach and can provide important business outcomes.

Although it’s long been known that showing empathy benefits others, more recent studies show how crucial it is for everything from retention to inventiveness. Empathy is the most important quality that great leaders must possess. Great leadership takes a fine blend of all kinds of talents to create the conditions for engagement, happiness, and performance.

  • Retention: research shows that when women experienced empathetic leadership and felt their companies respected and valued their personal circumstances, around 60% indicated they were unlikely to consider quitting. But only around 20% stated they were unlikely to consider leaving if they didn’t feel that level of value or respect for their current situation.
  • Innovation: employees who said their leaders showed empathy are more likely to believe they can come up with creative solutions to problems (61% of employees versus just 13% of employees with less empathy in their leaders).
  • Inclusivity: 50% of people with empathetic leaders reported their workplace was inclusive, compared with only 17% of those with less empathetic leadership.
  • Work-Life Blend: research shows that around 85% of people say they can successfully blend their personal, family, and professional commitments when they believed their leaders were more empathetic. This contrasts with 60% of respondents who felt less empathy.
  • Engagement: Studies show that when employees feel their leaders regularly engaged in an empathetic leadership style, 76% of them would report that they are engaged in the workplace. Where there is no empathetic leadership displayed, only 32% of people say they experience engagement at work. 

Empathy produces results and fosters healthy interpersonal and organisational cultures. Although empathy is not a novel skill, its significance has increased, and recent studies have demonstrated just how crucial it is for leaders to cultivate and exhibit empathy both today and in the future.

Are there potential pitfalls or challenges associated with being an empathetic leader? How can these be addressed?

The key thing to remember is that empathetic leadership is a practice and that means that you might not always get it right. There are a number of challenges that people can face when applying an empathetic leadership filter to a situation.

The first is that if you’re not consciously connected to what you are doing, it is very easy to apply your own assumptions and biases to a situation rather than really listening to the people in front of them and understanding where they’re coming from and their perspectives on a situation. One of the best ways to overcome this challenge is to use open ended questions so that you are always drawing information from the people involved, rather than sitting back and creating your own meaning to what is in front of you.

Another challenge to empathetic leadership is becoming too emotionally attached to the situation you are witnessing. When you let your empathy lead, it can be really easy to ‘feel’ the emotion of the people involved and sometimes that means you can also take the emotion on board yourself. When emotions take over, it becomes very difficult to make clear-headed decisions and to help others come together in a meaningful way. A great way to combat this challenge is to make sure you consciously connect with your own emotions multiple times a day so that you can bring yourself back to the facts of a situation rather than let the emotion run unchecked.

A challenge that arises from becoming too emotionally involved is that of not creating strong boundaries and providing yourself with appropriate self-care. If you get too emotionally involved and let the emotion run unchecked, you can easily find yourself with drained energy and on the brink of burnout. Overcoming this challenge is as simple as making sure you have daily practices that enable you to respect your own needs, recharge your energy regularly, take care of your mental, physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing and creating boundaries that you protect voraciously.

Another challenge that arises in empathetic leadership is the ability to communicate in an empathetic language that is appropriate to the situation that you are dealing with. Being empathetic is a skill that is developed over time. It calls for the leader to be able to communicate verbally and non-verbally to all parties involved. Practice, practice, practice is the way to overcome this challenge. The more you communicate with others, the more you will learn how to apply the most appropriate verbal and non-verbal communication in different situations.

One final challenge with empathetic leadership that people face is when they’re trying to apply it within a culture that doesn’t adopt it as ‘normal’. When trying to use empathy in a culture that doesn’t support it, a leader can find themselves challenged on a number of different fronts. Overcoming this challenge isn’t easy, but it is up to each leader to determine whether they want to commit to empathy as their primary communication method within the culture they find themselves, to revert to another communication style and ultimately whether they are a good fit for the organisation they work within. 

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process? 

I have very few nights where I can’t get to sleep. Because I’ve deliberately and consciously learned ways to reduce stress in every waking moment, it makes it easier for me to get to sleep and stay asleep each night. 

My daily decision-making process always has my health and wellbeing at the forefront and at the beginning of every day. My health and wellbeing is also at the forefront of decisions that are made around what I do, and don’t do every day.

I protect the time in my diary that is focused on sustaining a platform of wellbeing for myself. It’s the only thing that is non-negotiable – everything else fits in around that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would strongly encourage everyone to adopt a loving perspective on the world. 

Society would have us believe that comparing, judging, and criticising others is the best method to determine how successful our own lives are. 

We’ve been taught that competition is the primary motivation in life and that our sole objective should be to succeed at any costs, no matter the detriment to ourselves or others around us.

But, if instead we could see that everything we experience in life is simply a projection that is helping to point us towards the next step on OUR journey, perhaps there wouldn’t be a need for arguments, disagreements, war or greed, and then maybe our current way of thinking about life could end. 

We would just align ourselves with what is in flow for us and let go of the things that don’t matter to us. 

And at the same time, we’d be able to be happy for one other’s accomplishments and use that as inspiration as we work towards our own. We would shift from a state of scarcity and competition for resources to one of abundance for all.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I spend a lot of time in the online space and am frequently sought as an expert for media across all channels. I share a lot of my work through my online platforms that readers can access by connecting with me:

Website Link:



Free Email Series: 

I also have an online program to assist busy working women reduce stress and beat burnout that can be accessed here: 

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.