A Study to Determine the Impact of Empathy on Leadership Effectiveness Among Business Leaders in the United States and Malaysia

Empathy is a pivotal leadership tool in today’s global market. The current business world is characterized by rapid globalization which has led to an increase in the growth and prominence of multinational organizations. This trend towards globalization has increased the challenges faced by business organizations, which have to manage their employees across cultures, time zones, and organizational structures. Accordingly, the reality of a global market calls for business organizations to develop more effective leadership skills to enhance business survival and continuity.


This dissertation investigated the impact of empathy on leadership effectiveness by testing four hypotheses about the relationships among empathy, leadership effectiveness, and leaders’ backgrounds in a sample of 216 business leaders located in the United States (51.9%) and Malaysia (48.1%) who completed an online survey in English. This study used a quantitative research design using Davis’s Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to measure empathy and to test the impact of empathy on leadership effectiveness in the United States and Malaysia. The results indicate that American business leaders have significantly higher empathy than Malaysian business leaders, and that leaders with higher empathy appear to be more effective. The clear implication of these results is that global organizations need to develop leaders with high empathy skills.


Wan Abdul Rahman, W. A.
School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia


Patricia Ann Castelli
College of Management, Lawrence Technological University, USA