How Empathy Guides Us

Empathy inspires trust, loyalty and creativity.


In this backstage interview from Leadercast Women 2019, Laura Ling, award-winning journalist and TV host, shares how the empathy and compassion of others helped her through the darkest time of her life when she was held captive in North Korea. 

“During my captivity, it was the most terrifying time of my life,” she says. “But I do like to highlight those moments of compassion and humanity, and I experienced several of these moments with my guards.” 

Watch the video to hear how empathy manifested in her jail cell and why it’s a critical leadership skill.

I talk about empathy and compassion in the respect, in the sense, of how it helped me through my captivity in North Korea and those beautiful moments of humanity that I experienced during that very difficult, dark time. During my captivity, you know, it was the most terrifying time of my life, but I do like to highlight those moments of compassion and humanity, and I experienced several of these moments with my guards.

There was a time when one of my guards was crying and I didn't know why she was crying, but I reached out and hugged her. And I was nervous because she was supposed to, I was the prisoner, she was the guard, you know. But I think that she really appreciated that gesture, and it was the beginning of a bond that formed between us that broke down a lot of barriers, that broke down those preconceived notions that we had of one another as, you know, prisoner, guard, or as enemies.

But I think that empathy is so important in leadership. I don't think it's just important, I think it's essential, right, to be an empathetic leader. I think that empathy inspires trust, loyalty, creativity. It allows people to feel as though they can really share their ideas and participate in a bigger mission. I think that we can all remember the bosses or people in positions of leadership with whom we worked that have been empathetic, and they are the ones that have garnered the most respect.

I think that when we allow empathy to be our guide, when we open ourselves to the feelings and understandings of other people, especially those who may have ideas that are different from our own, it allows us to have a deeper perspective, and it allows us to see the world in a much broader way.
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Laura Ling

Laura Ling is an award-winning journalist and TV and web host who exposes the world to critical global issues. She is the host of Conquered on Z Living Network, and is the director of development for Discovery Digital Networks. In Mar...

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