Jesus de la Garza Of Monarch Leaders: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Evolve your leadership style to accompany the person without making assumptions.

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 Jesus de la Garza.

Jesus de la Garza was born in Monterrey, Mexico. Jesus is a restless world traveler who has visited over 64 countries and worked in over 40. He is an expert in group dynamics, believing small groups can change the world. He has a wide range of experience in business and counseling, having master’s degrees in both fields and specializing in groups. This has helped him expand his perspective of human behavior, helping to find the challenges a person faces in group interactions. Jesus has more than 30 years of experience in the steel industry. For the last 28 years, he has represented TATA Steel International Americas (Former Corus International Americas) and British Steel Limited since 2017. He founded De la Garza & Associates in 2015, a consulting firm specializing in making CEOs and executives achieve high performance for themselves and their teams and Forum retreats and Monarch Advantage , a tool for Transformative Leadership design to help Leaders be more effective working with their executive teams, launched in 2019. He is the author of the award-winning book 100 Leadership Questions and has created and facilitated over 750 sessions and seminars on Leadership, High-Performance Groups, Life Balance, and Empathy, among other topics around the world, and develops material continuously to increase people’s level of conscience through group experiences. Jesus also participates in probono work and is currently teaching as a professor with Eunoya Multiversity.

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?

Thank you for having me and allowing me the space to share who I am and what my company is, Monarch Leaders. For those who do not know me, my name is Jesus de la Garza. I’m an expert in group dynamics, and I strongly believe in the transformative power of small groups. With master’s degrees in business and counseling, I’ve gained extensive experience in these fields, specializing particularly in group dynamics. This expertise has deepened my understanding of human behavior, enabling me to address challenges individuals face in group settings.

How did this all come to be? I’ve always been intrigued by how people behave under different circumstances. When I turned 40, I decided to pursue a psychology major to help me understand this better. I then decided to study a second master’s degree in counseling with a specialty in group counseling. This gave me the chance to implement a technique for group therapy, which I practiced with different groups, such as violence survivors, alcoholics, families of the alcoholics, and minors in rehab.

After this, I thought if the technique works with these groups it must work in different settings and with all kinds of individuals, and that is when I decided to try and introduce this group learning dynamic in the business arena. And in 2015, I founded De la Garza & Associates, a consulting firm dedicated to helping CEOs and executives achieve peak performance. I also launched Forum retreats and Monarch Advantage in 2019 to enhance leadership effectiveness.

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

One specific moment came to mind when this question was asked, and it was the moment I sat down to speak with a client dealing with intrusive and suicidal thoughts. We were meeting to discuss his feelings and try to find the root cause of why he was feeling the way he was. We did a lot of digging during that session, trying to work through his emotions, which were raw and emotional. By the end of our session, my client had found some of the big answers he was looking for. He found new coping skills, different ways to channel his energy, and new hope for the bright future he realized he still had.

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

Monarch Leaders is a one-stop shop for mentoring, counseling, consulting, one-on-one coaching, and group coaching. Any company can come to us, and we can tackle many things at once, whether it be leadership coaching with a CEO or workshops with a team of employees.

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 believe what makes a leader successful is having and showing a clear sense of direction, maximizing their and their team’s strengths, and remaining humble enough to recognize that you have a team because you cannot do it alone. I also believe a strong leader understands letting go of what is out of their control and focusing on what they can control.

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.

When I am in a difficult position or a client/patient is in a difficult position, I emphasize the importance of knowing our core values and aligning those values with the decisions we make and the paths we choose. One example is when I was working with two parents of a teen daughter. They received a call that she had been arrested and taken to jail because she had marijuana on her person. This had been a consistent battle they were dealing with. They had repeatedly expressed concern about their daughter’s choices, and she was defiant. When she was arrested, they battled with the two ideas of letting her stay in jail and figure it out or bail her out. We discussed the two different options, and they felt that to teach her a lesson and help her step into becoming a true adult they needed to let her sit her sentence out. They struggled with the idea that their choice would cause her to resent them, but they truly felt she needed a wake-up call. Now, years later, she is an independent young woman who is contributing to society.

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?

From its origin, empathy was used to explain the objective and deep (internal) understanding of the other person’s feelings, ideas, and intellectual points of view. Think of it as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I believe empathy is an important quality all leaders should have because it allows you to understand what your employees or coworkers are feeling and allows you to take a step back and see the outside viewpoint. Having these two viewpoints helps you put the situation or feeling into perspective for both you and your employees. Leaders need to be able to understand who they work with in order to operate a successful company and house a healthy work environment.

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

Certainly. I sought to expand the trajectory of my business’s social media presence, particularly on LinkedIn, as we had needed more growth. Over several years, I cultivated a partnership with an individual who managed our social platforms. However, a new firm presented compelling insights into enhancing our LinkedIn outreach. I found myself in the position of initiating a conversation with my longstanding collaborator. It was imperative to express appreciation for our shared achievements while articulating my intention to explore alternative strategies. Embracing a delicate yet forthright approach, I engaged in dialogue to discern her sentiments regarding this transition. Conducting such discussions with esteemed associates entails a blend of empathy and candor, ensuring mutual understanding and respect amidst transformative decisions.

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 strike a delicate balance between understanding their team’s feelings and making tough decisions that may not be universally popular by prioritizing transparent communication and considering the long-term welfare of the team. They acknowledge and validate their team’s emotions while providing clear rationale behind their decisions. By fostering an environment of trust and open dialogue, empathetic leaders ensure that their team feels heard and respected even in challenging times. They also demonstrate empathy by considering the impact of their decisions on individuals and offering support where needed, ultimately guiding the team toward shared goals with compassion and integrity.

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, while sympathy entails acknowledging and feeling sorry for someone’s distress. Leaders must differentiate between the two because empathy fosters genuine connection and understanding, empowering them to effectively support their team members. Sympathy, on the other hand, can lead to a superficial response that fails to address underlying needs or concerns. By cultivating empathy, leaders can build trust, strengthen relationships, and create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

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

There are several practical strategies and exercises that leaders can employ to cultivate and enhance their empathetic skills:

  • Active Listening: Practice active listening by giving full attention to the speaker, maintaining eye contact, and providing verbal and non-verbal cues to show understanding.
  • Perspective-taking: Encourage leaders to put themselves in others’ shoes by considering different viewpoints and imagining how others might feel in a given situation.
  • Empathy Mapping: Have leaders create empathy maps, which visually represent the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of team members or stakeholders to better understand their perspectives.
  • Empathy Training Workshops: Conduct workshops or training sessions focused on empathy, where leaders can learn and practice empathetic communication techniques and skills.
  • Feedback and Reflection: Encourage leaders to seek feedback from colleagues and team members on their empathetic communication skills and reflect on ways to improve.
  • Cross-functional Collaboration: Encourage leaders to collaborate with individuals from different backgrounds or departments, fostering empathy through exposure to diverse perspectives.

By actively engaging in these strategies and exercises, leaders can develop and enhance their empathetic skills, ultimately fostering a more supportive and inclusive work environment.

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

Empathy helps leaders navigate diverse teams by fostering understanding of different perspectives, building trust, addressing individual needs, resolving conflicts, promoting psychological safety, and leading by example, ultimately ensuring inclusivity and a culture of belonging.

What’s your approach to ensuring that succession planning is a holistic process and not just confined to the top layers of management? How do you communicate this philosophy through the organization?

I believe in a gentle confrontation approach, which means a sensitive yet direct approach. This approach brings clarity, allows for the gathering of facts, and helps with learning acceptance and practicing active listening. Three tips that I practice myself and teach when it comes to effectively communicating this philosophy are as follows:

  1. Don’t wait your time trying to control the uncontrollable.
  2. Try to avoid feeding the imaginary monsters- internal shatter to internal dialogue.
  3. Head to heart.

Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1. Better listener. Learn to listen with all your senses.

2. Learn to make gentle confrontations effectively.

3. Maximize your team’s talents by trusting their problem-solving ability. Learn your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and cater to them.

4. Develop the skill of avoiding making assumptions.

5. Evolve your leadership style to accompany the person without making assumptions.

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

Of course. Leadership is never smooth sailing, and there will always be ways to improve in leadership positions. Here are 3 challenges I see arise often with being more empathetic.

  1. Boundary Setting: Empathetic leaders may struggle with setting boundaries between themselves and their team members, potentially leading to blurred lines between personal and professional relationships.
  2. Decision-Making Bias: Empathetic leaders may find it challenging to make tough decisions that could hurt others, leading to decision-making bias or avoidance of necessary actions.
  3. Emotional Exhaustion: Empathetic leaders can find it draining to constantly absorb and understand others’ emotions, leading to emotional exhaustion and burnout.

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 firmly believe that continuous self-improvement, both personally and professionally, is essential. My focus remains on enhancing myself for the benefit of those around me and those I mentor and on making a positive impact on the lives of others through Monarch Leaders. I am committed to delivering excellence in everything we offer, recognizing the substantial value we bring.

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

I believe Monarch Leaders is that tool. I created this one-stop-shop company to help others reach their full potential personally and professionally.

How can our readers further follow you online?

I would love for the readers to head to and check out what we offer as well as head to our social channels which can all be found at MonarchLeaders.

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.