Besides fostering trust, empathy also equips leaders with a keen sense of social savvy that helps them sift through complex social dynamics and make good decisions.

Consider the following example. A school administrator is called on to make an important presentation at a public school system's governing board meeting. Because the presentation concerns a controversial plan to close down one of the local high schools, many interested parties are in attendance: parents, teachers, students, staff, the press, the superintendent of the school system, other local residents, and the full board.

Now let's imagine that just as the administrator is about to begin his presentation, new information surfaces. For a few moments, there is an argument ...

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