In recent times, we have heard about the importance of empathy in leadership positions. First of all, let’s decipher what empathy is: the ability to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and understand the way one thinks and feels, even if we do not agree with that person. It goes hand in hand with connection.
This definition helps explain why empathic leaders are so necessary for companies. Leaders need to make employee relationships work in the best possible way and empathy helps.
Teamwork these days means cooperating with different people with different needs, tastes, and perspectives. Learning from each other can improve relationships and enhance innovation. The point of view of other workers can bring new ideas and knowledge. The “Google’s Project Aristotle” research revealed that groups that showed empathy were more successful when working within a team. Empathy creates workplaces where people feel more comfortable sharing and working together.
As a matter of fact, a 2019 study by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Houston in the United States showed that when empathy is introduced in the decision-making process, it strengthens cooperation. Empathy is even more essential and advantageous when workers disagree with each other. This encourages people to listen and learn from others.
In reality, one problem companies face today is employee turnover rates. Work is now more than a paycheck, and many workers are not engaged with their companies. A 2019 study conducted by business solver showed that 92% of employees were more likely to stay in the company if their leaders were more empathetic. These results are not surprising, given that empathy increases confidence and trust between workers and companies.
Now that we understand some benefits of empathy, it is also important to know what strategies leaders can implement to become more empathetic.
First, leaders must be available and open to being reached by the workforce. They need to show interest and show they care about workers. So, active listening is an important trait in leadership positions. Leaders should avoid interruptions and encourage employees to express their concerns and ideas.
In addition, the way leaders act, speak and their non-verbal communication can be crucial to show empathy: eye contact, positive attitude, and pauses when speaking can help. Verbal communication is also important. Choosing inclusive words and changing the “I” to “We” is essential. Telling stories and giving advice build confidence and trust.
A 2016 study by the Centre for Creative Leadership confirms that empathy is beneficial. It showed that leaders saw empathetic managers as better performers.
- Think Empathy Is A Soft Skill? Think Again. Why You Need Empathy For Success, June 2019, Forbes
- 8 Habits of Highly Empathetic Leaders, August 2019, Forbes
- 3 Science-Backed Reasons Empathy Makes You a Better Leader, March 2019, Inc.