Updated: Jun 27, 2022
It has been like a roller coaster ride the last couple of years. You’ve probably noticed that recently people are celebrating and yet others are fighting over their differences, inflation has been at an all time high, employees have quit, and countries are at war. On the other hand, many people are coming closer to friends and family. They are wanting to live in a world where, even with challenges, they can enjoy life and be a part of something bigger.
So, what does that have to do with what the world has taught us about good leaders? With all that is going on it is clear that good leaders help us get through many of these hardships and, well, bad leaders leave us looking for help. There are clear differences between a good and a bad leader and one of the biggest attributes that comes into play is empathy.
Just a quick note: This article was written from a neutral perspective and will not include any political views or opinions. We could have mentioned the Ukraine War and/or differences between political parties, but wanted to acknowledge and respect that you have your own ideology. In writing this article, it does not have a specific point of view and is not focused on any one person’s opinion. I challenge you to think about the article’s contents from your own perspective and consider the following as you think about your own leadership skills.
When there is an issue that affects a group of individuals… people connect to leaders that are empathetic to their problems and this collective group solves the problem quickly and efficiently.
Think back to the times you’ve heard an individual speak and something they said made you feel a connection to that person. Did you feel like you were both fighting for a similar cause or interested in the same topic? That’s how an empathetic leader makes us feel.
Empathy is an attribute increasingly being recognized as an important aspect of leadership. Empathy allows you to completely understand how other individuals think and see the world as they do. This type of leadership is the foundation of caring and compassionate behavior. A leader with empathy builds positive relationships with others and inspires loyalty and trust.
Empathetic leadership is the ability see the bigger picture and to really understand the people around you have different ways of viewing situations, their work, or the world in general. In a company, a leader who leads with empathy shows compassion for the people around them, and this results in happier, more engaged employees or the group. And an even bigger outcome is that people want to stay, increasing employee retention.
When a leader can “walk a mile” in another person's shoes, they are exemplifying empathic leadership. And when they can bring all the different individuals in a group together and help them to see a consensus driven vision; people jump to make that vision a reality. They see their place and know they are valued for their unique contribution.
When the world is in a crisis, people connect with leaders that are empathetic and will go the extra mile to support that leader.
Empathy, care, and determination come in handy when you're trying to lead a team that is facing adversity. Leaders who embody empathy are the individuals people tend to gravitate toward and follow in times of crisis. Leaders that stay alert to the challenges their group is facing or could be facing, really listen to their people and lead them to solutions, while incorporating the groups ideas.
Caring for the welfare of others and a willingness to help others to the best of your ability, is an authentic way to lead. When a leader stands firm in their resolve to be there for their people – it is felt. Clearly, we see this every day. It has been said many times, people don’t leave companies, they leave their managers or leaders?
Further, when things seem broken people look to their leaders for answers, guidance, and support. Leaders that embody empathy, care, and determination are the ones who lead best during times of crisis. Again, when a leader empathizes, he or she puts themselves in the shoes of the people affected by the challenge. They find ways to help the people they lead and the truly care for their team’s wellbeing.
Leaders that are empathetic to challenges are the ones that gain the most "following", therefore inspire a sense of togetherness
When a leader shows they care about other people, they gain a following because they lead with their heart. Leaders who care about their group tend to carry that into everything they do. Professionally empathetic leader care for their workers, their coworkers, and even their customers, and tend to earn the trust of those they lead.
Further, they harness a sense of community because those that are empathetic and caring to others tend to have people gravitate towards them. Think about the time you met someone who was super charismatic and seemed to always have a group around them. Likely, this person had a strong sense of empathy and it showed.
Empathetic leaders are those that are understanding to people who are "different" and know how to embrace differences
An empathetic leader can motivate the team or group to work towards a common goal. Being empathetic to differences also gains you an understanding of the needs of your group. An empathetic leader can then motivate their group by understanding each person’s strengths and/or shortcomings.
Successful, empathetic, leaders understand that people are different, and with this understanding they have learned the best way to design, develop, and motivate employees. Empathetic leaders know that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all out approach. They know how to lead people to come up with different goals and different objectives that drive a bigger better picture. They know how to understand others to leverage their unique differences.
How can you make sure you are an empathetic leader?
Empathy is not innate; it is learned. When a leader steps back from their own views and starts to understand the needs of the people within the group or organization (without judgement); other’s feelings, thoughts, and struggles show through.
With that said, empathy is one of the most important qualities a leader can possess and yet it also can be hard to develop, if you haven’t been brought up or lived in an empathetic environment. So how can you display empathy toward individuals, especially when they are dealing with problems or challenges?
In summary, build your ability to put yourself in another’s shoes. Understand another’s feelings and emotions when dealing with any kind of situation. Understand the challenges that your group members, employees, and/or customers face and have empathy for their situations, no matter what that might be. And understand that different is good.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Look for challenges employees are going through and find solutions to these challenges.
Look for opportunities to help employees grow.
Listen and prioritize.
Give credit when it is due.
Know individuals’ limitations and empower them to grow.
Ask “What can I do to help?”.
See every person as an individual, not as a tool.
Provide an avenue for employees to voice their concerns.
Recognize and reward individuals.
Help employees grow and develop.
Communicate and follow-up.
Design and create realistic goals.
Encourage open communication.
Create a sense of community.
Provide a positive work environment.
All in all, good, empathetic leaders are those that lead with their heart and show compassion. This is a quality trait in this day and age, as we face so much change.