By Carol Vallone Mitchell, Ph.D., Talent Strategy Partners LLC

This thought-provoking article is meant to evoke your response that will be read by and responded to by Carol. And a select comment or two may even be published in the next issue! Much like the “Dear Abby” newspaper column founded way back in 1956! Enjoy reading and let us hear from you! We want you to be part of the conversation!

Empathy, nurturing, and inclusiveness are the qualities that analyst and thought leader Josh Bersin refers to as the “Power Skills” essential to sustainable business success. This is a major paradigm shift from the traditional command and control leadership to a more collaborative approach. These skills are employed by collaborative leaders who understand that putting people first drives the business forward.

Collaborative leaders build trust, nurture connections, and stimulate engagement to create and foster cohesive teams. This is crucial in our post-pandemic workplace where team members are often not together in the same location, and where connections are crucial for making decisions promptly. It is also necessary given the challenge leaders face of guiding highly diverse teams spurred by a shifting generational profile, with greater racial and ethnic diversity than previous generations, and their expectations. Leaders are called upon more than ever to be mindful of employees’ wellbeing and sensitive to their individual circumstances.

The pressure is on to recruit and develop leaders who demonstrate these characteristics and build an inclusive culture of trust and belonging. This will require organizations to think more broadly and consider individuals who bring applicable capabilities gained through unconventional experience.

Interestingly, there may be a talent oasis that broader thinking companies have discovered. Recent research reported in HBR shows that employees who are unpaid caregivers outside of work have a unique skillset that is transferable and relevant to the organizations that employ them. Specifically, these caregiver/managers have the power skills of empathy, collaboration, teamwork, and an ability to anticipate needs in the workplace. The study reported that these characteristics led to stronger internal and external client relationships, higher levels of trust, more engaged employees, quicker problem resolution and better risk management.

Not only are these skills valuable for being an effective leader, they are exactly what are needed to establish and maintain a culture of support for caregivers in the workplace, which is a major concern for companies who lack the resources and infrastructure to provide caregivers more flexibility, paid time off and other supports.

What researchers in the area of caregiver support have found is that workplaces must view work-life policies as integral to their business practice rather than as an accommodation for specific individuals. Organizations who are doing this are working to promote culture change that will foster empathy towards every employeeʻs life circumstance.

What better way to promote culture change than by recognizing the characteristics of caregivers as a strategic asset. It takes away the stigma of “soft skills” being less business-critical and less important and sends a message that they are valuable.

To further understand the transferable skills of adept caregivers, we can match them to relevant characteristics of successful collaborative leaders, which fall into three categories: Participative, Inclusive, Perceptive.


Caregivers interact in a way that promotes self-efficacy in those in their care, reinforcing their role of shared responsibility with the caregiver. They create a supportive, encouraging environment.

Collaborative leaders share power with others, allowing them to take the lead and assuring belief in their success. They generate excitement and a sense of community.


Caregivers listen to those in their care to understand their needs. They solicit input, asking questions to learn what they perceive, experience and want. They show those in their care that they understand how they feel.

Collaborative leaders listen and understand the perspectives of all others. They demonstrate concern and compassion. They actively learn about others’ aspirations.


Caregivers are emotionally intelligent and understand their impact on those in their care. They anticipate problems and work to avert them.

Collaborative leaders are self-aware and understand the impact that they have on others. They adjust their style of interaction to put others at ease. They see the big picture and take a long-term view.

Recognizing that caregivers have skills that are transferable and highly sought out reframes the conversation to focus on how caregivers are a benefit to their employer rather than how to provide them support. It brings to light that organizations employing caregivers gain talent that is needed to supply their leadership pipelines with people who have the specific power skills of empathy, collaboration and teamwork.  Organizations also gain traction in creating a culture that nurtures empathy towards everyoneʻs life circumstance and in building a resilient and diverse workforce.

The alternative is a company that “focusses” on the conversation of how to provide caregivers support, missing out on all of the benefits mentioned. What is your opinion on reframing the caregiver conversation to how employer leadership benefits? Are you able to, or would you like to influence this direction?  Let us know at:

About the Author

Carol Vallone Mitchell Ph.D. In 2001, Carol co-founded Talent Strategy Partners LLC, a leadership development consultancy that helps companies maintain a robust leadership pipeline through succession planning and leadership development.

Carol’s leadership research led to authoring Collaboration Code: How Men Lead Culture Change and Nurture Tomorrow’s Leaders and Breaking Through “Bitch”: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly. She has written numerous articles for the Huffington Post and other publications including Chief Learning Officer, TD magazine, Forbes, WorldatWork Workspan, Thrive Global, Philadelphia Business Journal, and Fast Company.

Carol received her doctorate in Organizational Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania where she developed a behavioral profile of success for women leaders. Carol is co-chair of the Leadership Subgroup for Beacon, a premier executive networking organization. She is also a member of Philly SHRM’s Thought Leadership Team.

Contact Information: Carol Vallone Mitchell, Talent Strategy Partners LLC,,

Editor: Dennis Paris

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