Does empathy make you a better leader? And thought leader?

In researching my forthcoming book, The Empathy Edge, I found ample evidence that empathy can make you a more successful leader,

But…why?  And can it also impact your success as a thought leader?


Today I’m interviewing Denise Brosseau, CEO of The Thought Leadership Lab, where she works with executives and entrepreneurs seeking to grow their influence. She’s the author of Ready to Be a Thought Leader, which you must read if your brand strategy includes boosting your visibility as a thought leader.

Denise has taught at Stanford Business School, co-founded both a trade association and the first VC conference for women entrepreneurs, known as Springboard, which has helped women raise over $8 billion. Denise has also been honored as a Champion of Change by the White House.

Or, more simply, Denise is a “thought leader about thought leadership”!

She has seen what it takes to be a strong, effective leader and to amplify your message for massive impact. And a critical component to that success? Empathy.

You will love this lively video interview packed with insights on how to sharpen your leadership (and thought leadership) skills… and if you watch one thing, watch the important distinction between thought leadership and being a visible expert!

YouTube video

Highlights include:
*Do successful leaders exhibit more empathy and how do they act on it?  ([3:21])
*Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s big faux pas in front of thousands of women…and how he responded with empathy and reflection ([7:00])
*The difference between empathy and submission ([9:12])
*The growth mindset – and why “changing your mind” as a leader is not a bad thing ([10:55])
* Defining thought leadership and empathy’s crucial role in success ([11:52])
* The importance of appealing to both sides of our brains to make change ([14:31])
* What a thought leader really is…and is not! ([16:55])
*Are there people who should not be thought leaders? And the important difference between being a thought leader versus a visible expert. So good! ([18:40])

“We want leaders to mature, take in new information, ideas and perspectives and carefully consider them. If you’re not even listening and you’re still stuck in where you were when you were 25, I don’t know that you should be leading my organization!” – Denise Brosseau (TWEET THIS!)

Learn more about Denise and the Thought Leadership Lab
Take her LinkedIn Learning course, Becoming a Thought Leader (soon she’ll be adding a course about Thought Leading Organizations)
Connect with Denise on LinkedIn

Get inspired! 20 of the best branding + business quotes

12.9 inspiring marketing quotes (blog)

2015 is right around the corner (seriously?! What the….?!). If you’re like me, you are hibernating in a bit of strategy and reflection mode for what to do with your business or brand in the coming year.

For me, it’s about helping you (and myself) create more marketing with meaning. To find a deeper purpose in the work. To stand out by not trying to reach the lowest common denominator but by inspiring people who are committed to making the world a better place with their ideas, in ways big and small. (ahem…people like YOU!)

Whether you’re focused on your business, book, online platform or non-profit project next year, here’s some inspiration and clarity for you: 20 of the best branding and business quotes out there. Does one resonate with you? If so, write it down and pin it to your computer or desk so you can keep that focus right in front of you.

And please Tweet or share your favorite ones. There’s a tweetable down below for you with mine!

  1. “Content is of great importance, but we must not underestimate the value of style” ― Maya Angelou, Author
  2. “What people want is the extra, the emotional bonus they get when they buy something they love” ―Seth Godin, best selling author, marketer, and entrepreneur
  3. “Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they would like to go. Every time we waste that opportunity, every sentence that doesn’t do enough to advance the cause, is a waste.” ― Seth Godin
  4. “Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.” ― Seth Godin
  5. “Time, energy and talent can be more important than a budget “― Scott Harrison, founder charity:water
  6. “A business has to be evolving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative interests.” ― Richard Branson
  7. “Engage rather than sell … work as a co-creator, not a marketer.” ― Tom H.C. Anderson, NextGen Market Research
  8. “Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.” ― Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman, and motivational speaker
  9. “Give them QUALITY. That’s the best kind of advertising.” ― Milton Hershey, Founder of The Hersey Chocolate Company
  10. “Tell a story. Make it true. Make it compelling. And make it relevant.” ― Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz (Tweet this!)
  11. “The future of business is SOCIAL” ― Barry Libert, Strategic Advisor
  12. “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.” ― Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
  13. “People change, and so do their aspirations, and so should brands.” ― Laura Busche, Lean Branding
  14. “Make sure you test your brand story’s recipe with whomever you’re cooking it for.” ― Laura Busche, Lean Branding
  15. “Always remember: a brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world; a corner of someone’s mind.” ― John Hegarty, Hegarty on Advertising
  16. Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” ― Jeff Bezos, founder of
  17. “Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character and no public trust.” ― Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
  18. “If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” ― Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks
  19. “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Author
  20. “Entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before final success. What sets the successful ones apart is their amazing persistence.” ― Lisa M. Amos

Photo Credit: C. Jill Reed via Flickr

Who is the hero of your brand?

How to be the Hero of Your Brand

You can always tell “ego brands.” They are the heroes of their own story, it’s all about them and they could care less about the value, satisfaction or delight of their customers or clients.

C’mon: I KNOW you’re thinking of an example right now!

Great brands like Apple, Starbucks (yes, despite my break up with them), Disney, Nike, Tom’s Shoes, Virgin America, Zappos all make the customer the hero. It’s about their needs, their experience, what the brand says about them as a person.

It’s about delighting the heroes of their story: their customers. (Tweet this!)

Good story structure always has a protagonist facing an antagonist to achieve his or her ultimate goal. Without the conflict, there is no good story. Who wants to read about Cinderella being this perfectly happy young girl who went to a ball and married her prince?


But throw in some mean stepsisters, a deadline of midnight and her unhappy life standing between her and her prince and – BAM – you get a riveting classic.

Your customer is the hero, the protagonist. Their pain points and unmet needs are all the conflicts they face. And your brand is the handsome prince. But never forget that the story is called Cinderella – not The Handsome Prince. It was never really about the prince. The story is about her.

How do you make your customers or clients the heroes of their own story? How do you solve their problems, remove the conflict and utterly delight and surprise them?

This post was inspired by a video I recently saw from Scotland’s Celtic football club – my husband’s favorite team from back home. This young boy is one of the team’s biggest fans and they have adopted him as their own, often having him in the team huddle (click here for the video plus full backstory). This moment will leave you in speechless tears of joy. The brand could have just celebrated its own win that day. But the team chose to share it with their biggest fan. This – THIS – is how you make your customers – your fans – the real heroes of the story.