My name is Leanne Butterworth and I’m an Empathy Educator, TEDx speaker, university lecturer and mum, and I’m on a mission to create happy, healthy individuals, organisations and communities through interactive, accessible Empathy Training. Through my certified social enterprise Empathy First, I empower individuals to embrace empathy sustainably through impactful workshops and resources. Recognised as a Social Impact Fellow, George Alexander Foundation Scholar, and 2023 Women Changing the World Award winner, I'm dedicated to creating a more connected, empathetic and understanding world.
"Never be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Embrace new opportunities, even if they seem daunting at first. Remember that growth and personal development often occur when we push ourselves beyond what is familiar. Strive for excellence in everything you do, but also remember to prioritize self-care and well-being."
When did you start your business? Empathy First was officially registered as a social enterprise in early 2022 however I had spent several years prior researching, testing and validating the concept of empathy training including my signature WISER Framework.
What was the inspiration behind your work/business? I draw my inspiration from my experience of late-diagnosed postnatal depression. Being diagnosed by a compassionate physician not only allowed me to prioritise my own mental health but also ignited a sense of purpose to advocate for a world where everyone feels heard, valued, visible, and safe. Unfortunately, my postnatal depression went undetected until my second child turned three, largely due to the internalised stigma I carried coupled with the dismissive attitudes of those around me. I was often told, “this too shall pass,” but those words offered me little solace. What I truly needed was to be seen, heard, and embraced. This experience drives my determination to enhance the empathetic communication skills in our communities and organisations.
What are you most excited about in your work/business? My FAVOURITE THING is witnessing those “aha” moments in people’s lives. I have the opportunity to plant seeds of curiosity about healthy empathy and equip individuals with practical skills, allowing them to embrace empathy with less fear. They begin asking insightful questions and engaging in self-reflection. It would be a disservice to others if I were to abandon this meaningful work.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your work/business? I face several challenges in my journey, including imposter syndrome, difficulty in finding a niche due to my desire to help everyone, and a strong aversion to cold calling. To overcome these hurdles, I have found strength in living into my core values: Bravery, Learning, Impact, and Empathy. By aligning my decisions with these values, I gain reassurance and motivation. I constantly ask myself: Am I making a brave choice? Is there something I need to learn? Am I making a positive impact, even if it’s on just one person? Am I demonstrating empathy towards myself, my family, and my audience? These guiding questions empower me to make difficult decisions and continue progressing bit by bit.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a work/business? My advice is to embrace your uniqueness and believe in your abilities. Recognize that you have strengths and perspectives that can make a significant impact in whichever field or endeavour you choose. Be confident in expressing your voice and opinions, knowing that they are valuable and deserve to be heard. Seek out mentors and role models who inspire you and can provide guidance along your journey. Surround yourself with a supportive network of like-minded individuals who believe in your potential and can uplift you during both triumphs and challenges. Never be afraid to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone. Embrace new opportunities, even if they seem daunting at first. Remember that growth and personal development often occur when we push ourselves beyond what is familiar. Strive for excellence in everything you do, but also remember to prioritize self-care and well-being. Take time to nurture your physical, mental, and emotional health. Find a healthy work-life balance that allows you to pursue your passions while also maintaining a fulfilling personal life. Lastly, never underestimate the power of resilience and perseverance. You will undoubtedly encounter obstacles along the way, but let them serve as opportunities for growth and learning. Trust in your abilities, stay determined, and never give up on your dreams. You have the potential to make a remarkable impact in the world.
Why did you enter the Women Changing the World Awards? I entered the Women Changing the World Awards because of my deep commitment to driving positive change. These awards offered a platform to share my journey, inspire others, and extend the reach of my mission whilst also connecting with fellow changemakers. The awards represented an opportunity to share my dedication and empower my efforts in creating a more empathetic and compassionate world.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards? I thoroughly enjoyed finding the other winners on LinkedIn and Instagram and learning about the AMAZING work they are doing. I was truly humbled in their presence.
What surprised you most about the awards? That I won! But also the huge variety of endeavours and causes that women around the world are tackling. It’s truly inspiring.
How did the awards help you in your work/business? As a social entrepreneur, consultant, mentor and lecturer in social enterprise, I live and breathe social enterprise so receiving the people’s choice award reinforced that the work that I do is important and appreciated. It has helped to elevate my profile in social enterprise and also to alleviate my moments of doubt and helped me to keep moving forward.
What advice would you give to other women thinking about entering the awards? Go for it. It’s so much fun and your fellow entrants are fabulous!
What has been the best thing about starting your own work/business? Balance and Freedom. As a mum to 2 children (11 and 12) I need to be available for them and balance their needs with my own personal growth and development and owning my own business gives me that flexibility.
What’s happening next in your work/business? I’m excited to contribute to the book - Women Making a Difference and on top of that I’m working hard to grow my profile, networks and client base for Empathy First. The goal is to create a more empathetic world!
What are your big plans for the future? My big plan is to have Empathy Training go mainstream. We’re not quite there yet in Australia as people aren’t quite sure what it is or why they need it so I’m working hard to change that. I’m also keen to develop The Professional Empathy Podcast to continue to get the message of healthy empathy to a wide audience.