OpEd: A Call for Empathy in Leadership

many hands making a heart

Female leaders have been in the news in recent months.  Recently, Forbes featured an article on the women leading those nations (e.g., New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Finland) who have done relatively better fighting the COVID-19 situation during the early months of the pandemic.  They cited a systematic study done by U.K. academics Kambhampati and Garikipati (2020).  The suggestion was an empathetic approach to the tradeoffs between the economy and loss of life was more a feature of female leaders as compared to their male counterparts.   One of the authors of the study told Forbes, “From Bangladesh to Norway to Iceland, a study reveals that some characteristics that are typical to women in leadership positions were instrumental in the success of these countries: “it required big thinking, empathy, and good communication skills.”

Among the many reactions to the widely circulated news of the successes of women-led countries, we noted the response of Chamorro-Premuzic and Wittenberg-Cox in their article in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review.  They argue that instead of focusing on male vs. female leadership styles, it would be more productive to redefine the general concept of a strong leader to include those “take care” aspects of female leadership.  “In short, tales of strong female leaders succeeding through this crisis could lead to a change in the overarching narrative of what a strong leader looks like.”  As a result, they suggest, “Society at large may become less surprised and more accepting of leaders (s)elected on their expertise, intelligence, curiosity, humility, empathy, and integrity.”

A recent example of strong leadership we have witnessed personally is a letter that Cornell University President Martha Pollack recently sent to the Cornell faculty and staff, as undergraduate and graduate teaching commences amidst great uncertainty and risk due to COVID-19. President Pollack  opened by saying, “As we begin an academic year like no other, I want to thank everyone at Cornell who has worked so hard to make this reopening possible. “  She notes the “grace, creativity, and patience” of Cornell employees and acknowledges that people had “mapped new paths around every obstacle,” thanking everyone for their efforts. 

President Pollack goes on to discuss the “new normal” and how it is “very far from normal,” pointing out that individuals and families are coping with a variety of challenges.   She promises to work closely the leadership team “to explore possible ways of lessening the stress and the burden on our many employees with caregiving responsibilities.”

The next part is what stood out to us.  President Pollack challenged everyone in leadership to “lead with empathy, and find every way you can to be flexible, to be understanding and to be generous.”   To employees, she encouraged asking for “help when you need it.” For everyone, she said that there is a need “to change the ways we define success” and that it is essential to “be kind to others…and yourself.”

We think that President Pollack has demonstrated what Chamorro-Premuzic and Wittenberg-Cox calls the  “expertise, intelligence, curiosity, humility, empathy, and integrity” that should be the basis of selecting great leaders.  And we agree that if all leaders were chosen with these characteristics in mind, the world would be better off. 

Finally, we are heartened by the nature of the entrepreneurial leadership we have witnessed among participants of the Institute.  Your letters and responses to us have shown a deep level of concern for your own employees and your community.  You are actively supporting other small business owners.  Whether or not this empathy and  integrity is a result of your socialization as a female or some other force, it is a demonstration of great leadership and we think it is worthy of emulation by others. 

85 Platforms Where You Can Boost Your Startup’s SEO

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Phoebe Yao is the Founder and CEO of Pareto. She realized that while talent is equally distributed around the world, access to economic opportunity is not. She also realized that while there are many online freelance marketplaces, securing virtual work is not easy. The goal of her company, Pareto, is to build a set of scalable communication guidelines for the future of work.

One free resource that Pareto made available is this compilation of 85 active platforms where you can showcase your venture or side project. This marketing resource contains brief summaries, traffic levels, and submission complexity for each platform.

Link to webinar: “Raising Capital During a Crisis”

Picture of Olivia Owens from webinar zoom session

Click this link to access the August 18, 2020 webinar entitled “Raising Capital During A Crisis: Launch and Grow Your Business With Crowdfunding”

Olivia Owens, Head of Partnerships at IFundWomen, discusses how to leverage crowdfunding for your business. You’ll come away from this workshop with a honed pitch, a network map, a winning rewards strategy, and a marketing plan for your crowdfunding campaign.

Exploring Funding Opportunities For A Variety of Business Models

In this 15 minute video segment, Liz Ngonzi looks at the spectrum of business models from not-for-profits to social enterprises to traditional for-profits and then explores a variety of sources of funding that apply to each model. She also discusses organizations such as incubators and accelerators that can provide both monetary and consulting support to start-up businesses.

Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi is the Founder and CEO of Liz Ngonzi Transforms who as an international educator, speaker, executive coach, and consultant, helps impact-driven leaders, entrepreneurs and organizations to more effectively define and tell their stories, enabling them to improve engagement with their stakeholders.  In helping clients she aims to INSPIRE, CONNECT with and ACTIVATE them to create the TRANSFORMATION they seek in their lives and/or organizations.  Additionally, Liz proudly supports women leaders and entrepreneurs as a facilitator in the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell.  Previously as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Cornell Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, she helped aspiring entrepreneurs develop and present their unique value proposition to funders.

Amplify Speaker Series

"Amplify" speaker series logo

“Amplify” is a free speaker series designed to support and empower underrepresented communities in entrepreneurship and venture capital. In 2018, only 1% of venture capital funding went to Black startup founders. Black female entrepreneurs were only allocated 0.02% of VC funding. 

Entrepreneurship organizations at Yale, Harvard, Fordham, Cornell, Brown, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Stanford, UPenn, and Vanderbilt have come together to schedule weekly speakers. Amplify’s mission is to educate, inspire, and pave new paths forward for underrepresented voices in the world of startups.

The Cornell Entrepreneurship Club and the Sullivan Foundation at Rust College present AMPLIFY Week 4 – on Tuesday, August 4th at 5pm ET – which will feature a conversation with Jean-Pierre Adéchi, the CEO/Co-Founder of Wheeli. He will share thoughts on raising capital as a black founder and include specific lessons for women, minority, and other outside-the-box founders. To sign up for this event, click here.

To add your name to the Amplify mailing list to be alerted to future speakers, click here.