Carnegie Mellon University

Great Leaders Are Readers: Creating Empathetic Leadership

Enhance empathy, critical thinking, and self-awareness through exposure to the arts.

Feb. 22 - April 2, 2021 | online | 2 TEUs | $995

We’re in a time of crisis and upheaval that requires real, well-rounded, empathetic leadership to deal with the problems in our society. But how are empathetic leaders made?

This is a six-week program with four synchronous meetings via Zoom and a series of ongoing, asynchronous, online discussions throughout the course of the program. Each synchronous session will be one to two hours long.

The program will focus on the novel "An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones, which features ripped-from-the-headlines themes including mass incarceration; Black Lives Matter; police brutality; implicit bias; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and class struggle. Roy, an up-and-coming marketing executive, and Celestial, an emerging artist, are a newly married couple with a promising life ahead of them. Things fall apart when Roy is wrongly accused of a vicious crime and is sentenced to twelve years in prison. "An American Marriage" tracks the fallout of this tragedy and the toll it takes on the characters in the novel. 

The novel challenges readers to grapple with questions, including: What is it like to be wrongly accused of a crime? What is it like to come from a different social class than those around you? What is it like to have a partner in prison? 

As you read "An American Marriage," you’ll find that its characters are very much like people you encounter in the office during your day-to-day. This is no mistake. In writing the novel, Jones has said that her book is about “people and their problems, not problems and their people,” meaning that instead of looking at facts and figures about mass incarceration or police brutality, she tells a story about people who could very well be your colleagues. 

Key Takeaways

  • Enhance empathy, critical thinking, and self-awareness through exposure to the arts.
  • Understand tactics to chart the social, cultural, and political challenges of current society.
  • Participate in active discussion with professional peers.

Who should attend?

This program is designed for leaders interested in enhancing key leadership skills, including empathy, critical thinking, and self-awareness.

Program Topics and Schedule

Feb. 25 - 5:30 to 7 p.m. EST

  • Includes a discussion of literature’s impact on empathy and the difference between discussion, debate, and dialogue.
  • A chance for all participants to network and get to know each other.
  • A discussion of the pre-reads.
  • An introduction to the themes represented in the novel.

March 4 - 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. EST

  • Dialogue about section one of the book.
  • Participants are encouraged to bring real-life, business-related stories to the dialogue. For example, who do the characters in this book remind you of? Did reading this section help you empathize with a coworker or direct report better?

March 18 - 5:30 to 7 p.m. EST

  • Dialogue about section two of the book.
  • Presentation by corporate DEI specialist.

March 30 - 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. EST

  • Dialogue about section three of the book and the epilogue.

Earn the Carnegie Mellon Certificate in Executive Leadership

Participate in three executive education open enrollment programs in five years to earn Carnegie Mellon’s highest certificate designation for executive education.


Executive Education at Carnegie Mellon

Contact a program director at 412-268-2304 or to learn more.