Leadership in its true essence is more about helping others than yourself. Empathy means the ability to understand the needs of those around you. Empathy is an essential quality of an effective leader.
As a leader, you must be aware of what those who have chosen to follow you are thinking and feeling. This will help you in defining your relationship with your team and lead more effectively.
It should not be misunderstood here that as a leader you are supposed to agree with the viewpoint of others, but it means that you are willing to acknowledge and appreciate their concerns.
Empathy is often misconstrued as a quality that makes leaders weak and ‘touchy-feely’. The reality is that an empathetic leader understands the strengths and skills of people better.
As a leader who practices empathy you also gain the trust to be able to push your team to work on themselves, enhance their capabilities, and lead and inspire them to thrive in the right direction.
“Empathy is the foundation of a true leader.”
Traits of an Empathetic Leader
The three key traits of an empathetic and effective leader are:
– Being a Good listener
– Heightened Emotional intelligence
Empathetic leaders should be good listeners so that they can communicate efficiently with people. This does not mean that talkative people are not empathetic leaders.
“Sharing your thoughts and expectations with people is equally important to listening to them.”
However, you must know when to talk, when to listen, and more importantly what to say after they talk. This is only possible when you establish an open and fair communication channel with people.
Empathetic leaders are non-judgmental, and they respect the differences of opinions in the team. Even when some people are in direct disagreement with them, leaders must first understand their perception and reasons behind opinions.
Instead of judging if they’re right or wrong in having such feelings, empathetic leaders should acknowledge their thoughts and then decide on what is best for the organization.
Finally, emotional intelligence is of utmost importance for empathetic leaders. You should analyze the feelings of people in an objective manner and not let personal biases influence your decisions. This will not only strengthen your bond with people you serve, but also instill their faith in your leadership.
Significance of Empathy in Leadership
It is often observed in the workplace that managers expect their employees to conform to their thoughts and ideas. For instance, many managers expect their teams to work very long hours consistently without even considering that each individual may have a different personal situation at their home.
This makes employees feel that their managers are insensitive towards the concerns of the team and they end up getting painted as an enemy. Each team member then starts looking out for their own emotional interest which eventually disrupts the workplace.
Noticed I called these types of leaders, managers? The above are not the traits of a leader.
“An empathetic leader ensures that the feelings of the employees are never overlooked or ignored.”
Empathy lays down the foundation of the most important element in the workplace — trust.
You can never be an effective leader if your team doesn’t trust you. When you show that you are considerate towards the feelings of your employees and understand their concerns even when you don’t agree with them over a few things, you develop trust.
Employees notice when you are acknowledging their feelings and respect their personal opinions. Once you bond with employees and they trust you, you can then inspire them to succeed by mentoring them where they are lacking.
This will further strengthen your relationship with the team, increase collaboration with them, and improve the overall productivity in the organization.
Empathy is not a special talent or something that needs years of experience. It is not something hard to grasp or difficult to inculcate. All it requires on your part is some forethought.
Simply take a step back in any situation and try thinking about what others are feeling around you rather than focusing on how you feel.
It does not mean that you have to disregard your own feelings. But when you are working with a team and they are looking up to you, it becomes your responsibility to handle things with care when they are hurt, irritated, or upset.
“An empathetic leader focuses first on what people are experiencing instead of focusing only on their own feelings.”
You must consider them as individuals with personal lives and not just employees. When you start treating them right with respect, they will also trust your leadership skills. You can then focus on the mutual growth of the team that will lead to efficient and considerate work culture.
Being an empathetic leader builds trust and strengthens your relationship with people. They will see that you care, value, and understand them.
When you are not judging them, you will be able to get to the root of problems and effectively collaborate to solve them.
Your concern and personal interest in the team will ensure that employees become more engaged, loyal, and productive.