The Role of Empathy in Leadership

The Role of Empathy in Leadership

For generations, leadership within a company was expected to be strong, forceful, sometimes blunt, and maybe even unyielding. Employees were expected to comply with every order, demand, and instruction without question or concern; just do your job because I’m the boss, and I said so. 

Times have changed! The pandemic really shone a light on the importance of empathetic leadership and the importance of recognizing the humanity of employees and their very real concerns and questions about the workplace. But the truth is, things have been moving toward the need for empathetic leadership for a long time. 

To start with a definition, empathy means being able to share, respect, and understand the feelings of others. You don’t need to have experienced the same thing to “get” what someone else feels; empathy means seeing someone’s emotions and taking them at face value without trying to change them or telling the person to get over it. 

Empathy might be one of the most important qualities a good leader should strive to model. 

Here’s why empathy matters: 

  1. Empathy builds trust. When employees know their leaders are sympathetic, they will trust them more with problems at work that could otherwise lead to a decision to change jobs. Empathetic leaders want to keep their employees happy, content, and satisfied in their positions. 
  2. Empathy helps solve problems. A great skill of mediators is the ability to listen to two or three sides of a problem scenario and reflect it back to the people involved in such a way that they can see the commonalities rather than the conflicts and work to find common ground. 
  3. Empathy fosters a more supportive work environment. When you learn to see the indications of stress in your team, you can take action in real-time to address it. The ability to ask for help is one that most people do not possess, nor do they seek to learn it, as it can be viewed as a sign of weakness. But picking up on subtle indicators based on empathy and learning about your team saves that employee from having to raise their hand and ask for help; it shows that you see them and care for them, and that can go a long way towards building a truly supportive workplace. 
  4. Empathy boosts productivity. This might sound a little odd, but it’s true! Workers who feel appreciated, supported, cared for, understood, and respected are more likely to stay engaged in their jobs, invested in their work, and content in their positions. People who feel ignored, overlooked, and taken for granted will start looking for a way out. Being compassionate keeps your team together. 

Respecting the feelings, thoughts, emotions, and responses of your team doesn’t make you a weak leader who will be taken advantage of or disrespected. It means you’re someone who cares about your employees as people, as individual humans, and you want to see them succeed. It will also make you look like a better leader to your own manager or supervisor and will reflect well on your whole department. A little empathy can go a long way! 

If you’re an empathetic leader who wants to add to their team to help ease the pressure on the people already working for you, call SmartTalent. We can help you find permanent or temporary job candidates to round out your team, and we can do it quickly! Call SmartTalent today, and let’s get to work.

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