Sara Midões: ‘Being a leader is to contribute and putting others‘ needs first.’

MCG Talks

Sara Midões, an expert in positive leadership and empathetic communication at, illustrates the importance of these crucial topics in today´s organizations by using MCG as an example.


Our conversation with Sara Midões begins by exploring the key pillars that form the concept and practical execution of positive leadership. She delves into various crucial aspects for organizations aiming to facilitate the development of their people in terms of leadership, communication, and human relationships. Additionally, she “paints a portrait” of leadership within companies in Portugal.

Magazine M: Can you describe the elements of empathetic and positive leadership along with their importance?

Sara Midões: Positive leadership, as a leadership paradigm, consists of three main pillars. The first, affirmative orientation, focuses on what works, including solutions and opportunities while considering the strengths of the individual, team, and organization.

Secondly, the pursuit of the best in humanity involves creating a context whereby everyone can act and think in a way that elevates a person by emphasizing virtuous practices such as generosity, empathy, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, etc.

Finally, aim for an exceptional performance that is qualitatively distinctive by achieving a quantitative goal with gains at each and any of the individual, team, organizational, and community levels.

These gains go beyond reaching a numerical target; positive organizations profit because of their generosity. Positive leaders, in addition to being effective, contribute to the whole.

Servant leadership, authentic leadership, Kim Cameron´s practical model of positive leadership, among others, provide good examples of positive leadership styles.

Magazine M: Can we say that the concept of “empathetic” leadership is essential in a company?

Sara Midões: Yes, considering the growing trend towards the humanization of organizations, deepening the relational dimension, ensuring psychological safety in the workplace, and fostering collaborative and innovative work environments – these all necessitate empathy.

In a study I conducted about a year ago involving 270 people, 75% of respondents considered empathy as the quality deemed most necessary in leadership.

Approximately 75% of respondents considered empathy fundamental. Out of the 15 qualities listed, assertiveness and goal orientation followed in popularity with 45% and 44%, respectively.

Magazine M: In your opinion, what is the overall state of leadership among Portuguese companies?

Sara Midões: I am optimistic and think it is going well! There is, of course, room to grow and evolve, but I don´t paint leadership, especially middle management, as the “bogeymen” or the “villains” of organizations.

Often, they teach themselves the required leadership skills and do their best with what they know. On the other hand, they face more demanding challenges and higher stress levels compared to the rest of the team.

They undoubtedly need support in their development, and it ultimately comes down to everyone´s decision and willingness to evolve.

Based on my interactions with MCG leaders, the leadership integrates care for everyone as individuals, based on the values of honesty, justice, and humility, as well as demands for rigor and mutual respect. I gathered a general perception from leaders at all levels.

Magazine M: Based on your contact with MCG leaders, what “portrait” do you take of the leadership practiced in the company?

Sara Midões: Humanized, integrating care for everyone as people, based on values of honesty, justice, and humility, but also demand, rigor and mutual respect. This is a general perception of the leaders I contacted (at all levels).

If course, the opportunity to improve always exists! For all of us. Above all, I felt a great openness and a lot of desire to learn, especially regarding topics which come across as somewhat new in an organizational context, such as empathy and non-violent communication.

Magazine M: In just one sentence, tell us what “perfect leadership” consists of…

Sara Midões: It does not exist! Only nature is perfect… To me, being a leader involves assisting the company as a whole, encouraging everyone to contribute, and putting others´ needs first. Not that we should forget ourselves, but to act based on goals greater than our own.

Great examples of leadership for me include Nelson Mandela and Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand. They contributed and showed dedication, but did they lead perfectly?

No. They have done many things they regret or would do differently. However, they learned humbly in the process, and, most importantly, their intention, their heart, was in the right place.

People are people, created inherently imperfect, which is a good thing. An excellent leader will have doubts, question themselves, and show their vulnerability like any human being, all while never losing their strength.

Sara Midões: 'Being a leader is to contribute and putting others‘ needs first.' MCG

Sara Midões

Sara Midões worked for many years in several executive jobs related to communication and marketing in different companies until she decided to dedicate herself to Community. She designs and delivers customized training projects on well-being, positive communication, empathy, and positive leadership.

She is a teacher and executive coordinator of the Positive and Empathetic Leadership course at ISCSP-UL (where she also teaches the Applied Positive Psychology course in the postgraduate program in Positive Psychology), and collaborates with Católica Lisbon – Executive Education.

Sara also develops well-being and Work-Life Balance (WLB) mentoring programs for professionals and is involved in the Positive Education project at Interviver with the Unesco Chair of Education for Peace.

You can read the full interview in issue nº 09 of MCG Magazine M: