Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

Committee Member

Jeannette Kindred, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Don Ritzenhein, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nick Romerhausen, Ph.D.


In a field dominated by eclectic leadership styles, leaders have the capacity to influence worker experiences and organizational outcomes. This study examines particular leadership traits that may influence the overall organizational environment. Specifically, the study proposes that empathy is significant for effective leadership. Eighteen leaders in various industries participated in semi-structured interviews regarding their practices and perspectives. The results delineate a compilation of emergent themes as well as data findings regarding specific areas of inquiry. Five major categories were found regarding empathy as an aspect of 21st century leadership: industry-based perspectives, generational demographics, technology, employees as people first and workers second, and the link between empathy and productivity. Additionally, four major categories were found in regards to how empathy is established in organizational culture: training programs/workshops, organizational success measures, daily communication habits/interaction, and work activities/traditions. The results indicate that empathy is an essential trait for 21st century leadership and beyond.