Empathy is one of the most important traits in a leader. When you look at great leaders of our past and present, this is an apparent quality that they each exude. They make sure that their people feel heard, appreciated, and cared for. In return, the leader is able to connect with his or her people on a deeper level, achieve greater results, and make more of an overall impact.
With empathy you are able to tell if the people you are trying to reach have been reached, in this case: your employees or team. When you are wholly empathetic as a leader, you truly understand your employees, recognize their wants and needs, and know what makes them tick. You are able to put yourself in their shoes and see a situation from their point of view, not your own. This is not always as easy as it may seem, especially as a leader; taking your own bias out of the picture is perhaps the hardest part.
Empathy is one of those traits that can be learned, but only to a degree. It must be a partially inherent quality that already exists within a person that can be further improved and built upon. Think about it: if a person is already empathetic in his or her personal relationships, it is more than likely that he or she will be the same in a leadership role.
Diligently practicing empathy in leadership will create great results for the organization and over company. Empathetic leadership increases team loyalty, engagement, culture/moral, creativity, and retention. Here are some ways you can start weaving empathy into your leadership role and day-to-day operations:
- Appreciation and Recognition. When a team member exceeds expectations on a project or resolves a client conflict in a timely manner… recognize that! Just the slightest gesture or even a brief comment will make him or her feel noticed, appreciated, and cared about!
- Ask Questions. There is no better way to get to know someone or understand how he or she feels than by asking questions. By asking the right questions, you can gain helpful insight and understanding of an outside party’s point of view. With this information you can then take the next necessary steps to make sure they feel heard and their feelings accounted for.
- Be Present. Whether you are in a team pow-wow or a 1-on-1 meeting, give your undivided attention, and minimize all possible distractions. People can tell when you are fully engaged in a conversation versus when you are not really listening but just nodding your head to make it look like you are. When they can feel that you are present, actually listening to them, and really hearing what they have to say, they will feel like you care about and value them.
By understanding your people and actively exercising empathy, you will be able to predict the impact that your future decisions will have on your team and the organization as a whole. In addition, you will also be able to strategize your future decisions and actions accordingly.