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“In the 21st century, empathy is more powerful than authority,” wrote co-authors Chris Lewis and Dr. Pippa Malmgren in The Leadership Lab: Understanding Leadership in the 21st Century.

The authors surveyed leaders from around the globe a series of 2017 and 2018 LEWIS Advisory Board forums to discuss a “sharper, more accurate image of reality.” In a comprehensive dive of findings, their research illustrates a stark contrast between the power of data versus the power of empathy.

Lewis and Malmgren conclude that leaders can best adapt to upheavals in geopolitics, technology, and values, by considering the following eight takeaways:

  1. Leadership combines logic and emotion, both short- and long-term thinking. The prepared leader views change as evolutionary — applying infinite imagination, humility and open-minded perspective. This approach, in turn, builds trust with constituents and employees.
  2. Imagination is more powerful than knowledge. Algorithms based on data can actually muddy the water, distracting leaders with what has already happened. The key is to allow the right brain to truly process situations and output more creativity and emotionally intelligent responses.
  3. Economic policies based only on historical data haven’t predicted recent fiscal upheavals. Quantitative measurements can obscure the big picture with retrospective meanderings. Data should be used to solicit input from all stakeholders and to ask more in-depth questions.
  4. Impatience generates poor decision making and hinders democracy. Communities need the patience to grow; short-term thinking only serves short-term private interests. Once technology reaches its maturity, the network’s size hampers productivity and undermines social fabric.
  5. Geopolitical changes lead to changes in infrastructure and trade. Borders are fluid, and there are more migrants and more competition for resources. Geopolitics needs more than the governing principles established at the end of World War II, true progress will be found from greater connectivity. Leaders must balance popular sentiment with economic facts about globalization.
  6. Technology must serve people — not the other way around. Technology has taken the upper hand and is busy controlling the global masses. Data has become the world’s most valuable commodity. The way forward points to using technology in service to helping improve the lives of millions of people.
  7. Discrimination isn’t only unjust; it is inefficient. Inclusivity invites everyone – regardless of gender or race – to participate in the collective good. Women’s leadership and voices can bring a complementary balance to leadership.
  8. As the world changes rapidly, so do its values. Greater property has created greater inequality. Communication has replaced conversation, so negotiating, problem-solving and emotional connections are all getting literally lost in translation.

In conclusion, a return to fundamental humanness – self-control, humility, and generosity – is the antidote to reactive fear, greed, and limited thinking. By embracing qualitative over quantitative, leaders can uplift and empower their communities, constituents, and organizations.