Asif Yusuf Of Disruptiv Media: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Empathy leads to better listening and understanding and encourages our team to share their thoughts and ideas. This becomes really clear on our daily team catch-up calls when we go through and listen to the challenges of each team member, before coming together to reach a decision on the best way forward.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is increasingly recognised 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 Asif Yusuf, CEO of Disruptiv Media.

Asif Yusuf is the CEO of Disruptiv Media at, a digital marketing agency he has grown from a freelance operation to a global business with a team of 20 staff. With a strong focus on remote work, AI-driven marketing strategies, and flexible working arrangements, Asif has successfully navigated the challenges of the digital marketing landscape. His leadership style is characterised by adaptability, empathy, and innovation, making Disruptiv Media a standout player in the industry.


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 started my digital journey back in 2008 while working in a senior role at a global publishing business. I soon recognised that digitalising my skills could be the next step forward for my career and shortly after began building an online business alongside my day job. In 2014, the hard work paid off and I was able to leave my day job to focus full-time on the new business, Disruptiv Media. I have since grown the business remotely into a thriving digital marketing agency with over 20 employees from all around the world. The flexibility and adaptability of remote work has been a huge factor to our success by allowing us to attract talent from around the world while keeping our high productivity levels.

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

One of my most interesting experiences was when I launched a flexible working job site, in 2009. Back then, remote work was not as mainstream as it is today so we did face some scepticism. However, we stuck with our belief in remote work, as perks such as improved mental health and more time for family life were clear. It has been incredibly rewarding to now see the world slowly, but surely, embrace this new way of working.

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

Our company really stands out because of our commitment to flexible working and also our focus on using AI to optimise our marketing strategies.

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?

Adaptability has been a big one for me. My ability to react and adapt to new situations has been really important, particularly during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our remote working infrastructure really helped us here to continue our operations without any major disruptions.

Another one I’d go for is my empathy to get a real understanding of my team’s needs and to create a supportive environment that has really helped to improve our employee satisfaction across the business.

The last one would have to be innovation. Without this, the business wouldn’t strive forward, and so I am always on the lookout for new innovative solutions. For example, like incorporating AI into our strategies, as I previously mentioned, which has helped us to keep ahead of the curve and provided a competitive edge.

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.

A difficult decision I had to make was during the early days of our business when we had to choose between investing in new technology or expanding our team. Both options had significant benefits, but we chose to invest in technology, which ultimately streamlined our processes and allowed us to scale more efficiently. This decision reinforced the importance of prioritising long-term gains over short-term benefits.

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?

To me, empathy from a leadership standpoint is about understanding the thoughts and feelings of my team, recognising their needs, and then providing them with the right support. It’s important as it encourages trust, improves communication, and creates a more inclusive and productive work environment.

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

There was a time when a team member was going through a personal issue and their performance was ultimately affected. By showing them empathy, offering flexibility, and providing support , we really helped them to navigate through their tough period. This did not only improve their performance but also helped their trust in myself and the company.

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

Empathetic leaders I think need to have open and empathetic communication while remaining transparent about the challenges being faced. It’s about showing that you care and still being clear about the need for certain decisions.

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

Empathy involves understanding and sharing the feelings of others, but sympathy describes feeling pity for someone else’s situation. Empathy is needed to create actionable support for an employee, but sympathy can occasionally create a distance and a sense of helplessness.

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

I believe leaders can show empathy by listening to and taking feedback from their team. Team-building activities that encourage communication and understanding can really help here.

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

It can help leaders to understand and appreciate different perspectives, which encourages an inclusive environment where each team member can feel valued and heard. Also, it ultimately improves our collaboration and innovation by bringing a diverse range of ideas from various viewpoints to the table.

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

The first would have to be better communication. Empathy leads to better listening and understanding and encourages our team to share their thoughts and ideas. This becomes really clear on our daily team catch-up calls when we go through and listen to the challenges of each team member, before coming together to reach a decision on the best way forward.

Secondly, it improves our teams’ motivation. Showing our team empathy shows that we appreciate their contribution, helping them feel valued and appreciated at work. After a challenging day, we always try to remind the team that their hard work is really appreciated. This goes hand in hand with improving motivation, but increased loyalty will ultimately come from empathetic leadership too. When a team member feels heard and valued, they will respect you and the business.

Empathy can also help us to make better decisions. It helps us to understand the reason behind a team member’s decision so we can then offer supportive advice. As mentioned there was a time when a team member was going through a personal issue and by offering them support, they ultimately came back to work more motivated than ever.

Finally, it encourages innovation as it forces leaders to consider the diverse ideas and perspectives of their team, which leads to more innovative solutions. At Disruptiv, we have employees from all over the world — from South Africa to The Philippines — so are exposed to a diverse range of thought processes that really help foster new ideas and encourage innovation.

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

One challenge is the risk of being perceived as too lenient. This can be solved by setting clear boundaries while keeping a balance between empathy and accountability.

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?

My concerns for staying ahead of the competition and industry trends, alongside ensuring the well-being of my team can sometimes keep me awake at night. These thoughts help me to continuously seek innovative solutions and create a supportive working environment.

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 start a movement to promote flexible working arrangements globally. I believe it has been great for our business and believe it would be for others too! It has significantly improved productivity and overall work-life balance for our employees.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn and visit our company website at for more updates and insights.

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.