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Jamil Zaki

There isn’t one level of empathy. We can grow it through practice—individually and collectively.

Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab | Author of The War for Kindness

Contact Jamil For Booking
Jamil Zaki | Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab | Author of The War for Kindness
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Empathy is often stereotyped as a squishy soft skill, and irrelevant or harmful to the bottom line.  But in reality, it’s an organizational superpower that makes collaboration more efficient, employees happier, and leadership more effective. It’s the competitive advantage in the workplace—and anyone can get better at it. JAMIL ZAKI, a Stanford psychologist and one of America’s pre-eminent speakers on empathy, draws from his acclaimed book, The War for Kindness, to share his powerful, practical take on exactly how empathy enhances company culture, fosters collaboration, and leads to more loyal employees.

“In this masterpiece, Jamil Zaki weaves together the very latest science with stories that will stay in your heart forever.”

— Angela Duckworth, author of Grit

Everyone’s catching on to the fact that empathic people perform better at work—but not everyone knows how to implement strategies to increase workplace empathy effectively. That’s where Jamil Zaki comes in. As Director of Stanford’s Social Neuroscience Lab and author of The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World, Jamil Zaki has earned a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking, pragmatic, and requested speakers on empathy in the world. 85% of CEOs in a recent survey said empathy was important to their bottom line, and 90% of their employees said they’d be more loyal to an empathetic company—yet in that same survey, over 90% of those employees said their company wasn’t empathetic enough. It’s clear that for companies to attract—and retain—top talent, they need to strategize how to close the gap between the values on their walls and the reality their teams experience inside them—and Zaki is uniquely equipped to lead the way.


He knows that empathy is more than just one thing—and it manifests itself in multiple ways. Not only is it an organizational superpower and a learnable skill, but it’s also contagious. His current research shows we are all responsive what he calls the “kindness contagion”: seeing others enact kindness spurs a cascading and unifying effect in communities of any size and stripe. Creating environments that encourage empathy leads to a positive cycle of an increased sense of community, trust, and loyalty—which in turn enables leaders to be more effective. Zaki shares what science reveals about how empathy works, and the common misconceptions that lead companies astray when trying to cultivate it, and explores the power of empathy to amplify connection and productivity—while providing concrete strategies for how to grow it.


“Jamil Zaki is one of the bright lights in psychology, and in this gripping book, he shows that kindness is not a sign of weakness but a source of strength,” says Adam Grant, bestselling author and professor at Wharton. With warmth, wit, and straightforward exercises that can be swiftly implemented, Zaki’s audiences walk away with a deep understanding of not only the true nature of empathy, but its power to change our professional, creative, and personal relationships for the better.


At Stanford, where he is also an assistant professor of psychology, Zaki’s unique work spans several domains, including social influence and prosocial behavior. New research from his lab examines how to encourage empathy for people from distant political and ethnic groups, and also how caregivers and healthcare professionals can balance empathizing with their patients and maintaining their own wellbeing. Zaki received his BA from Boston University, his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and postdoctoral training at Harvard University.


Speech Topics

The War for Kindness How to Hack Our Ability to Understand Others at Work and in Life

How do we navigate our differences at work, at home, in politics and in society? In this enlightening, lightly humorous, and research-based talk, Dr. Jamil Zaki delivers an astonishing overview of empathy: how it really works, why it truly matters (especially to work places), why it’s on the decline, and how to build it back up through deliberate practice. For anyone who works in HR, who leads teams, or is part of one, Zaki will redefine how you understand, empathize, and work with others—an issue companies have been debating forever. Zooming out, Zaki’s insights will help you revitalize your connection to your neighborhood, your community, the world at large. Empathic people are happier, more creative and productive, in all sorts of ways. Zaki shows you how to become more empathic—how to grow your sense of empathy, to make it deeper, broader, more muscular. A must-see talk for anyone concerned with how we relate to and understand other people.