Being a leader is much more than just giving orders across the workplace; you must stay sensitive to the emotions of your employees and workers at all times. Empathy is a skill that helps you build that sensitivity.
So, why is empathy overlooked in the workplace? Most times, it’s a lack of understanding concerning its benefits. That’s why we’re here.
What is an empathetic leader?
The term doesn’t need more of an explanation. An empathetic leader is one that can see things from the perspective of the subordinate or employee and who is willing to take steps to remedy certain situations.
Empathetic leaders aren’t particularly the type of people to let just about everything pass in the name of trying to relate to their workers, but they have an understanding and the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the people that they’re supposed to lead.
An empathetic leader can help his or her subordinates feel comfortable and at east at the workplace, and while they try to make their subordinates perfect in everything they do, they also have an understanding of the fact that there are times when being perfect might not be possible. Instead of punishing a worker or an employee due to his or her shortcomings or occasional inaccuracies, an empathetic leader can help them overcome these imperfections.
Of course, there’s a balance to this, the fact that you’re being empathetic doesn’t mean that you should let everything past; at the end of the day, there’s the place of discipline and instilling a sense of striving to be perfect. However, empathy is understanding that people are trying, and helping them to feel comfortable while working for you.
Do Empaths make good leaders?
There is no doubt about the fact that empaths can make great leaders. Empathy is an important leadership skill that leaders are encouraged to build, and here are some important reasons why:
Empaths are committed to building a better world
A true empath has one thing as first thought; how to improve a specific situation and help build a positive image of the people around them. Empaths always have it as a priority to contribute to the improvement of the people and situations around them, as opposed to just looking out for themselves and what they can take.
By improving relations and supporting others, empaths help provide an opportunity for people to be better versions of themselves.
Empaths can bear the burdens of others
The ability to carry the burden of other people is a great way to show strength and leadership, and this is something that makes empaths great leaders. While their ability to carry peoples’ burdens is great, however, it is also important for an empath to learn how to distinguish between helping people and maintaining their focus on a particular goal. The best empaths can harness the strength that they have, and ensure that they propel others to be better while also improving on themselves as well
Empaths can handle challenges
According to a study, a leader with the best insight can distinguish between his assessment of himself and how his employees see him. Leaders who have strong insights can understand their needs, emotions, and behavior, while also being able to understand the characteristics of other people as well.
Besides, empathetic and insightful leaders are proactive when they get faced with challenges. Empathy improves your level of self-awareness, which will help you to approach negative situations and setbacks with a positive attitude.
In his book, “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain,” author Dr. Antonio Damasio conducts a study that revealed that patients who had damage done to the parts of their brains that deal with empathy had a significant lack of relationship skills.
Thus, empaths can relate and communicate better with the people around them. Through this, they gain a better understanding of their social environments and can exist more peaceably with others and achieve results based on specific scenarios.
Adaptability is strong
In a business environment where competition is high, finding a leading position can be challenging. However, empaths can understand their social environments, and thus, can adapt much better to challenging times. They understand why things might not be going well more easily, and by being aware of the happenings in their organizations- both from within and without.
Their influence is extended
In a separate study, employees were able to grow easier and faster when working under relatable managers who were able to relate with and take them under their wings. These empathetic leaders allowed them to be more involved, thus providing them with a proper avenue to let their strengths shine and improve on their skills.
In turn, the employees saw these managers through improved perspectives and showed an increased willingness to innovate and work.
Is empathy an important character trait?
As stated earlier, empathy is a very important character trait that everyone- regardless of whether they’re in leadership roles or not- is encouraged to develop.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- Empathy provides an advantage when it comes to building beneficial relationships and connections with others. By sensing the thoughts and emotions of others, you can respond positively to various social scenarios
- Empathy can also help you keep your emotions in check. Whether you’re a leader or not, you’ll come to find that emotional control is important, since it allows you to manage how you feel without becoming overwhelmed
- With empathy, you can develop healthy behavior. Apart from the benefit that this brings on the people around you, it could also benefit you since these people feel more inclined to come to your aid when you need them
Why is empathy important for managers?
The value of empathy in leadership can’t possibly be overstated. It is an important tool that helps to optimize productivity and results and can take care of some workplace redundancies.
Empathy improves staff loyalty
Every organization faces the struggle of keeping talented members of staff. One of the most prominent reasons why workers tend to leave the companies they work for is that they lose trust and respect for the people they are to report directly to.
An empathetic leader is trustworthy and can show workers that they’re appreciated and cared for. Whether in how you relate to workers personally or in the way the organization relates as a whole, everyone prefers to stay in a company where they feel appreciated, valued, and important.
Empathetic managers engage staff better
People who are the closest to you are the ones who are the most adept at appreciating you and making you feel more appreciated for the things you do daily. This appreciation makes you more willing to do even more for them when next they need you.
When it comes to employee engagement, it’s important that every leader demonstrates and shows that they care. By doing this, the empathetic leader unwittingly sets off a reciprocation that will make workers want to do even more the next go around. A lot of organizations tend to miss the most minute point when it comes to leadership habits, and appreciation for the work that employees put in is a great way to start.
The most successful organizations understand this, and they’re always looking for ways to compliment and appreciate their staff for their work
Empathy improves relationships between employees
Apart from the fact that employees feel appreciated and valued for their work, showing empathy in the workplace as a leader has a chain reaction that spreads to the employees as well. When there’s empathy in leadership, every facet of the organization feels it, and this reduces friction and conflict among staff members as well.
Empathy in management leads to a stronger teamwork spirit, and negatives such as workplace disruption are cleared. As collaboration is increased, so will output and workplace productivity.
Empathetic leaders, happier workers
This point ties to some of the previous ones already made. When there’s empathy in the workplace, staff feel that they’re appreciated and valued, and they become more satisfied with the job and are more optimized daily.
An increase in job satisfaction reduces the levels of absenteeism and nonchalance. Staff who aren’t committed are less motivated to come in every day, and since they believe that no one really cares about them or how they feel about certain issues, their morale about the job is significantly depleted as well.
A knock-on effect of nonchalance is that it puts a lot of strain on fellow workers as well since they are left to pick up the slack and make up for the lags of the defaulting members of staff. In no time, overall productivity is reduced, and employee morale goes down the drain.
Empathy could spur increased creativity
The value of empathy in leadership can also lead to an increase in out-of-the-box thinking from workers. People who are made to feel like they are important, meaningful parts of an organization tend to bring in more and look for ways to continue to matter.
This leads to an increase in creativity and innovation, which will significantly increase the company’s productivity and output over time.
With empathy in the workplace, workers have a higher likelihood of bringing up newer ideas and ways to improve on both their work and that of the organization, since they know that their efforts will be rewarded.
As they see it, their success has been intertwined with that of the organization. Thus, they feel more committed to your goals and are willing to give even more. Thus, they feel ready to innovate and help make processes more efficient.
What are the 3 types of empathy?
Showing empathy is one thing, but it’s also important to mark the distinction between the various available forms of empathy.
The following is a simple guide to help mark those distinctions:
Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand a person’s current state of mind and emotions. It is the form of empathy that helps improve communications, as it boosts your ability to relay information.
Emotional- or affective- empathy is the ability to share someone else’s feelings. It is important for building emotional connections with people, thus improving your ability to relate to their current situations.
Compassionate empathy is a step beyond the former two, although their significance can’t possibly be diminished as well. Also known as “emphatic concern,” compassionate empathy is what moves you to take action and provide help to someone in need.
What are some examples of empathy?
Taking the three forms of empathy discussed above, consider this example of an empathetic leader:
You have a worker who recently lost a family member. Naturally, you could be moved to feel empathetic, pity the worker, or even be sad for them. Sympathy will move you to show your sadness at this, or perhaps evens end a card to the person to commiserate and let them know that they’re in your heart as well.
However, there is some time and effort that could go into showing empathy as well. The train starts with cognitive empathy; trying to imagine how the worker could be feeling at this point.
“How close were you?”
these are questions you ask them. However, you also begin to think about how this loss could affect the worker going forward.
Then, emotional empathy will help you to find a way to share these feelings. You find a connection in yourself that understands how emotional pain and grief could feel. It could be you remembering what it was like to lose someone, or just imagining how it would be if the person who played that role in your life was suddenly taken from you.
Then, compassionate empathy will move you to take some form of action to make the worker feel better. You could tell him or her to take the day off, offer to cover some of the funeral costs, or even help make some phone calls and reduce the workload on the worker.