Rachana Adyanthaya of cr8mychange: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Emotional connection: Leading with purpose and empathy isn’t just about communication it’s about forging deep connections. When your team feels understood and valued, motivation comes naturally. Empathy taps into emotions, which often drive our decisions more than logic. For instance, think about those impulse purchases that felt so right in the moment, even if your rational mind disagreed. That emotional connection is powerful.

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 Rachana Adyanthaya

Rachana is the founder of cr8mychange, specializing in women’s leadership and etiquette to empower women to excel in performance, communication, and career advancement. She understands the delicate balance between a competitive, determined spirit and the subtly important traits of empathy, kindness, and respect for others. Her consulting enables clients to gain the edge needed to reach their next-level success goals without compromising their integrity. Rachana is adamant that helping clients identify with their inner principles to achieve their goals is the key to a fulfilling life. (www.cr8mychange.com)

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?

My background spans from the legal and banking sectors to playing sports at a high level. These experiences have not only shaped my professional skills but also influenced how I approach life. I’ve always been fascinated by teamwork and the strategies people use to thrive under pressure. This fascination led me to mentor through a women’s networking initiative, which I find incredibly rewarding. It’s in this role that I’ve discovered my passion for guiding others, something I wholeheartedly embrace.

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

As I began my career, I was eager to learn and sought insights from industry experts to avoid any blind spots. One person who stood out was Julia Estevez Boyd, an etiquette consultant in Switzerland. Julia graciously shared her time and expertise, and we instantly connected. I admired her poise and professionalism, thinking, “She’s got it all together.” Little did I know, our connection would evolve into a meaningful collaboration. During the COVID pandemic, I casually mentioned starting a podcast as a fun project, and Julia eagerly joined me. Our podcast, Manners Matter 2 has become a source of joy and learning, proving that sometimes, the most unexpected opportunities can lead to fulfilling partnerships.

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

What sets cr8mchange apart is the blend of performance coaching with etiquette consulting. This combination ensures a polished approach that feels authentic and comfortable for women. One client, recently promoted to managing partner at her law firm, found our sessions invaluable. We focused on when and how to use different tools in her toolbox, especially as her role and environment changed. She credits our work together for her growth and leadership, noting that she feels supported like I’m right there with her in the trenches.

I take great pride in walking alongside my clients, offering support and guidance so they don’t have to navigate their journeys alone. My aim is to help them reach their goals with confidence and clarity.

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?

1. Clarity of Vision: Having a clear vision of my goals and who I wanted to help was crucial to my success. However, this vision evolved over time. It’s essential to be specific and adapt to make your vision work. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone, which leads to vagueness. For instance, when I focused on helping women find their niche in business, my client base grew significantly.

2. Adaptability: Being able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. No matter how clear your goals are, there will always be unexpected challenges. I initially focused solely on private consulting, but when a client proposed working with their team, I adapted and found it to be a rewarding experience. It’s important to meet your clients where they are and be open to new opportunities, even if they challenge your existing beliefs.

3. Decisiveness: As a leader, making timely decisions is crucial. Practice and clarity of vision help in making the right decisions. When you are clear about your goals and reasons behind them, the decision-making process becomes more straightforward and effective.

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.

There was a compelling opportunity to work with a well-established organization that could significantly boost my reputation in a specific sector. I deliberated deeply on it. Building something from the ground up isn’t easy; it requires time, faith, and courage. I’ve put in the hard work and have grown to love where I am. Working with exceptional clients and having the autonomy to decline projects that don’t align with my values are aspects of my current position that I truly cherish.

While working with a larger company would undoubtedly bring financial benefits, I ultimately realized that what I value most is the ability to carve out my own path. I appreciate the freedom from organizational structures and rules, allowing me to consult in a manner that prioritizes the client’s best interests and values. This independence ensures that my focus remains solely on delivering exceptional service without being tied to a specific corporate identity. This experience has shaped my leadership by reinforcing the importance of staying true to my values.

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?

For me, empathy in a leadership context is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, seeing things from their perspective, and responding with compassion. In today’s work environment, empathy is a vital trait for leaders for several reasons.

Firstly, empathy builds trust and rapport. When leaders show empathy, it creates a sense of connection and understanding with their team members. This, in turn, fosters a positive work culture where employees feel valued and supported.

Secondly, empathy improves communication and collaboration. By understanding the emotions and perspectives of others, leaders can communicate more effectively, resolve conflicts, and build stronger relationships and see the world from different perspectives.

Thirdly, empathy boosts morale and motivation. When employees feel that their leaders understand and care about their concerns, they are more engaged and motivated to perform at their best.

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

A team member was consistently quiet during team meetings and seemed reluctant to share their ideas. Initially, I assumed they were disinterested and lacked motivation. However, after taking the time to connect with them individually, I learned that they preferred to listen, process information internally before sharing it with the group. By taking time to understand their communication style and respecting their need for reflection, I was able to create a more inclusive environment where they felt comfortable sharing their insights. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to share their thoughts, it took them time to reflect and gather thoughts. As a leader, I could ask them more specific questions and give them time. The impact was wonderful. Often the feedback and responses were some of the most valuable.

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

Ultimately, empathy isn’t about avoiding hard choices; it’s about making them with care and understanding. Empathetic leaders show that you can be strong and decisive while still being kind and considerate, creating a workplace where everyone feels supported and respected.

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

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It involves putting oneself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing their emotions. Empathetic leaders strive to understand their team members’ perspectives and feelings, which helps them make more informed decisions and build stronger connections with their team.

On the other hand, sympathy is acknowledging and feeling sorry for someone else’s hardship or situation without necessarily understanding or sharing their feelings. While sympathy is a compassionate response, it may not always result in a deep understanding of the other person’s emotions.

Empathy fosters a deeper connection and understanding with team members. When leaders empathize, they are better equipped to address underlying issues, provide meaningful support, and make decisions that consider the impact on individuals. Sympathy, while well-intentioned, may not always lead to the same level of understanding and connection.

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

1. Active Listening: Practice active listening by fully concentrating on what others are saying, without interrupting or forming judgments. Listen to understand.

2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Imagine yourself in the other person’s situation. Consider their perspective, feelings, and challenges to gain a deeper understanding of their experience.

3. Practice Empathetic Body Language: Use open body language, maintain eye contact, and nod occasionally to show that you are engaged and empathetic.

4. Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe space for your team members to express their thoughts and feelings. Make sure it is not an open forum for people to whine. It can be a fine line to tread.

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

There are so many benefits to being an empathetic leader. Empathetic leaders foster an environment where diverse viewpoints and ideas are encouraged, which often leads to more creative and innovative solutions. Leaders can connect, engage, and create a supportive environment where all members feel valued and heard. This bolsters inclusion and the feeling of belonging. This is the first step to making a difference. By listening and being empathetic it can Challenge your own biases because you are seeing things through a different lens. This can break down barriers and open channels of communication and spur innovation. When people feel valued and understood, they are more likely to share ideas, work together and manage conflicts.

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

1 . Stronger relationships: Understanding others’ perspectives and where they are coming from is crucial for influencing them — it’s leverage. When you know what is important to someone, you can use that to motivate and direct them. It’s about speaking their language, essentially.

I remember a colleague I worked with who seemed closed off, all business, and no banter. He refused to share deal information in a centralized system, opting instead to handwrite notes and keep them to himself. Initially, I thought he preferred an “old-fashioned” approach. However, as I got to know him, I discovered that his behavior stemmed from an insecurity. He believed that by hoarding information, he could protect his value and job security, especially after experiencing redundancy in his previous role. If I hadn’t forged a relationship with him, I would never fully understand where his actions were coming from and more importantly, I could communicate in a manner that motivated him.

2 . Employee retention: Employees are likely to feel more valued and heard when they have an empathetic leader. I once faced a similar situation when I was offered a job at a competitor bank. The remuneration was much better, and the role aligned with my expertise. However, I chose not to transfer. I valued the team I was working with, and I believed that opportunities for advancement were on the horizon. Moreover, the prospect of working under a tough manager, who had seen many predecessors struggle in the role, made me appreciate my current environment even more. Despite the tempting increase in pay, I prioritized the positive and supportive atmosphere I was already a part of,

3 . Emotional connection: Leading with purpose and empathy isn’t just about communication it’s about forging deep connections. When your team feels understood and valued, motivation comes naturally. Empathy taps into emotions, which often drive our decisions more than logic. For instance, think about those impulse purchases that felt so right in the moment, even if your rational mind disagreed. That emotional connection is powerful.

4. Conflict Resolution: Empathetic leaders excel at resolving conflicts by delving into the emotions and motivations of each party involved. They guide discussions toward positive outcomes by understanding the perspectives and needs of everyone. For instance, when a leader empathizes with conflicting parties, they can help find common ground and solutions that benefit everyone. This deeper understanding allows leaders to communicate effectively, resonating with others and influencing them positively, which is crucial for successful conflict resolution.

5. Increased innovation and creativity: This creates a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their unique ideas. When I first transitioned from law to banking, I faced a steep learning curve. Luckily, I had a supportive boss who led with empathy. She never made me feel like my questions were irrelevant, which gave me the confidence and security to forge my path in the new field and introduce new ways of doing things. Her support was invaluable and shaped my approach to leadership.

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

Yes, as with all things, empathy needs to be used at the right time and in the right quantity. One potential pitfall is emotional exhaustion, as constantly tuning into others’ feelings can be draining. To address this, you can practice self-care and set boundaries to ensure you don’t neglect your own well-being.

Some may mistake empathy for a lack of assertiveness. By pairing empathy with clear and confident communication you can show understanding while still being firm in your decisions. If you are likely to get absorbed in others’ emotions, it is also important to find ways to empathize without absorbing the emotions.

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?

As a women’s leadership consultant passionate about helping women to find their authentic voice and style my main concern revolves around ensuring that women are equipped with the tools and confidence to lead in their unique way, without feeling pressured to conform to traditional biases.

I am committed to helping women navigate the challenges of leadership, including overcoming imposter syndrome, asserting themselves confidently, and balancing assertiveness with empathy. These concerns influence my daily decision-making process by guiding me to create tailored strategies and resources that resonate with women’s experiences and empower them to lead authentically. I am constantly learning and listening so that I can grow and support my clients in the best way possible.

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. 🙂

If I were to initiate a movement, it would be to empower women to stop apologizing excessively. Starting a sentence with an unnecessary “sorry” can immediately undermine your position. By recognizing and addressing this tendency, women can profoundly alter how they are perceived and how they view themselves. This shift in mindset can cultivate greater confidence, stronger leadership qualities, and more meaningful interactions. Ultimately, such changes benefit not only women but society as a whole.

How can our readers further follow you online?


Instagram and FB: @cr8mychange

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.