Part of the importance of compassion in leadership is being able to offer emotional direction and encouragement, which helps each person to grow both personally and professionally. Empathy in the workplace, a critical component for emotional competence and effectiveness as leaders, strengthens the overall interpersonal bonding process and can lead to better engagement and more successful outcomes at both individual and organisational levels. It allows the leader to understand the behaviours of employees and tailor strategies for improving work effectiveness and performance.
Empathy allows leaders to be more effective in their executive presence through better communications (sending and receiving messages), building followings, motivating and developing individuals, and making stronger relationships. Empathetic leaders are able to build relationships by taking the time to ask questions about an employee’s feelings and offering thoughtful answers. The compassionate approach helps them to display great communication and active listening skills as they gain insight into their team members’ experiences and behaviours. Empathetic leadership is when leaders demonstrate a sincere interest in their team members and their feelings, building working relationships that are based on trust.
Empathetic leadership is being able to lead by understanding others’ context, experiences, and needs, as well as being mindful of their thoughts and feelings. Empathetic managers realise their team members are dynamic individuals, dealing with personal issues, yet having to keep up with professional duties. Leaders can tap into their ability to empathise and understand individuals when working on such teams. Some leaders are naturally more empathetic than others, giving them a leg up over their colleagues who have trouble conveying empathy.
Even though leaders and managers with empathic personalities cannot relate to a specific difficulty that an individual on the team is experiencing, leaders can practice empathy by acknowledging what they are going through, which positively affects conversations. Leaders can also understand a person’s feelings using emotional intelligence (thinking about how being in their shoes will make them feel). To truly be effective, leaders need to know all of the different types of empathy and think strategically about which is the best fit for each situation they are experiencing. There are leadership challenges when (too much) empathy may limit the leader’s effectiveness; therefore, it is essential for leaders to adapt their behaviour according to specific situations.
While clearly, leaders must understand and care about their employees, they should also learn to balance those feelings against their own ability to do a good job. Listening to your teams’ needs and concerns, making sure that they are comfortable within the working environment, and making sure they are not facing challenges on the job are a few of the mindful efforts that an empathetic leader needs to take. The best empathetic leaders don’t just feel the emotions of their team members, they also take action to help them advance in their careers, and sometimes this means giving constructive criticism.
Empathetic leaders want to understand why people are the way they are, and that drive helps them to become excellent leaders who can relate to people and adjust their style depending on whom they are communicating with. This also encourages the employees to work harder and share their ideas which can be helpful in responding to the new market opportunities. It has also been found that when people feel that their leaders are more empathetic, they are better able to manage their work and family life. Naturally, compassion in the workplace reflects in work, and the entire workplace culture is improved when leaders take an empathetic approach in every facet of the business.
Part of leading with empathy involves working to understand each team member’s unique needs and goals and how to best align job assignments in ways that promote both productivity and employee satisfaction. When empathy is the rule, not the exception, your team members will collaborate knowing they are understood and valued for their contributions. There are some tools that can help you with it. For instance, LSI Coaching can be useful for finding out more about the thinking pattern of the team members and how it affects their performance. HBDI can also assist you in doing the evaluation and identifying the key gaps that we need to work on.
Moreover, managers and leaders who demonstrate empathy and compassion contribute to positive working environments in which colleagues feel valued, motivated, and productive. Leaders who create an open-communication climate have a greater opportunity to practice being more empathetic. This can, in turn, boost employees’ morale, performance, retention, and loyalty, as well as improve their mental health.
In addition to the above, when trying to tackle the perceived lack of empathy in the modern workplace, it is important to recognise that, much like organisational culture, this does not boil down to one single thing but rather to an interconnected set of behaviours and biases which serves to reinforce the way leaders and their teams perceive the value of empathy in business. Remember always that as human beings, although we try to keep our professional and personal lives separate, they do collide at some point. Therefore, if the business wants to retain the top talent, it is essential to consider the emotional aspect as well when dealing with the employees.
In a nutshell, as the leadership role has far more impact on an individual and how an organisation responds to the internal and external factors, empathy is an essential skill that helps leaders understand the human aspect of the business problem and respond accordingly to achieve the desired result.