What is the single most important attribute I would look for in an employee, contractor, or partner? No, it is not ambition, or even talent. It is something much closer to my heart.

Just a short time ago, we drove to the office to park, and passed by two people whose interaction made a strong impression on us.

We have already seen in some reports how emotionless some young people can be, and how apathy and a lack of expression just somehow have surfaced more and more.

The rise of consumerism and materialism, coupled with individualism and ambition, seem to have given rise to a new “subculture” of lacking in sympathy for others.

So, when we passed by a young man who from all visible accounts, were unrelated to an old physically challenged old man in a wheelchair, and how he patiently and carefully helped the old wheelchair-bound man across the street, made a moving impression.

That was also when I realized, from many of the interviews and testing of candidates we have come across, for our own needs and for clients, one of the attributes that always stood out above all else, was empathy.

If a person is a self-starter, a fast and eager learner, and is meticulous and careful in his work, these are all desirable attributes in an employee, or a contractor, or even a business partner of choice. However, when a person rises above the fray and shows empathy for others, that is when all other qualities pale in comparison, and such a person wins my heart rather than just a checklist.

This is because to me, a person with empathy is willing to go the extra mile for the needs of others, especially those with less. Such a person is willing to even do more than he is paid for for a good humane reason, and needs no rallying to serve the higher needs of others and the community, and often, without craving for unnecessary power and wealth just to “get ahead”. And such a person, because he is willing to go the extra mile, will also tend to put in more effort to learn, to adapt, to perform, and above all, do things ethically without the need for constant supervision.

These are rare gems, and harder to come by these days. When you identify someone with empathy as the tip of his attribute iceberg, dig deeper, and you may just find this person the person you have been looking for your organization for a long time.