“Empathetic leaders are assets to organisations, in part, because they are able to effectively build and maintain relationships – a critical part of leading an organisation anywhere in the world.” – CCL group
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what other people feel, experiencing from within their frame of reference. Being an empathetic leader means you should be able to create a bond between you and other staff by trying to put yourself in their shoes. Unlike sympathy, said Chris Richardson, empathy is way beyond just solving one’s problem. Empathy is a means to understand others feeling which eventually leads to the comfort of revealing the truth and feeling. This truth, then, can be cultivated to grow company better.
Further discussion on Richardson’s article showed that empathy is needed because it helps us, as a leader, understand how others feel so we can respond appropriately to the situation. It is typically associated with social behaviours, and various research has shown that greater empathy leads to more helping behaviour.
In a workplace situation, for instance, using empathy as a starting point can build positive engagement and drive productivity, by way of support. When leaders approach staff with an open dialogue, deep understanding and a willingness to offer help, staff are more likely to respond with mutual willingness, thus, it will create a sense of compassion. This feeling will help employees feel safe and secure with both his leader and his job.
Moreover, empathy helps a leader understand other individual’s perspective, hence, creating better management and collaboration. It makes it easier to find a compromise between two points of view. It can also show deep respect between leaders and employees. In addition, having an empathetic feeling shows a leader’s care as opposed to just going by rules and regulations.
Another research by CCL team also cited that being able to feel someone else is fundamental to leadership. By analysing data from 6,731 managers from 38 countries, the team found that an empathetic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty by much.
Empathetic leadership style also positively related to job performance rating from a leader’s boss. The result of the study also suggested that as empathic emotion plays an important role in creating a paternalistic climate of support and protection to promote successful job performance, leaders should develop and sustain their empathetic side for the sake of business and personal development.
Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, or developmental opportunities and initiatives as follows:
a) giving time and attention to others more. This can enhance leaders’ performance and improve leaders’ perceived effectiveness;
b) develop better listening skills to make people feel respected, hence, trust can grow. The two main listening skills to develop are listening to hear the meaning behind what others are saying and listening as an active listener;
c) understand employee’s point of view to strengthen the bond; and
d) go beyond standard-issue values statement and allow time for compassionate reflection and response.
Read also: 5 Top Leadership Tips for Small Businesses