I was interested to read a piece of research done by the Centre for Creative Leadership on Empathy in the Workplace. Their white paper shows the results of research into performance and empathy. According to CCL, there is a direct link between performance at work and empathy. The more empathetic the leader, the better the performance.
What is surprising is that where workplaces are more traditional, with hierarchical power structures, empathy becomes even more important. That is to say that where leaders are expected to act in a powerful, paternalistic fashion, having empathy for followers is even more important than in more egalitarian organizations.
In our move from the industrial economy with paternalistic corporations to the knowledge economy with looser structure we may have lost our ability to empathize. In the past, the corporation cared for employees and that is now left to individual managers who may have never realized the important link between empathy and performance.