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How Empathy Supports Intelligent Leadership
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau
Another truly empathy-related miracle is the impact empathetic leadership can have on the morale and productivity of employees.
According to the latest research, empathy may be the most important leadership skill. Period.
Empathy outshines all other leadership skills.
What exactly is empathy in the context of intelligent leadership? According to the US Army’s Field Manual on Leadership Development, empathy is the understanding of another person’s point of view, as well as the ability to identify with the feelings and emotions of others.
In my book, Intelligent Leadership, I have defined empathy as the ability to sense the developmental needs of others while being aware of their perspectives, feelings, and concerns.
These definitions drop quite a few clues about why empathy is essential from the perspective of leadership development.
Let’s take a look at some of the direct benefits of empathetic leadership for your organization.
Empathetic Leadership Improves Employee Retention
The retention of talented employees is one of the major challenges HR departments face all over the world. To retain employees, an organization needs to keep them happy. How do you accomplish that feat? Do you throw money at the problem? Do you lavish bonuses and days off upon your employees? Or do you turn to the time-honored solution of empathetic leadership?
Empathy sends your employees several strong messages. It tells them that the organization understands their needs, trusts them, and values them. The organization appreciates their presence on the team and the skills they bring to the table, and is always ready to listen to what they have to contribute.
Empathy Empowers Staff, Promoting Engagement
By showing appreciation, the intelligent leader encourages employees to contribute more. It is human nature to want to do something positive for an entity that shows sincere appreciation.
It is good to feel appreciated.
We could consider empathy to be one of the top leadership skills for this reason alone. Yet, many organizations fail to put this simple concept to use.
Engagement based on psychological ownership combats absenteeism.
Empathy is Contagious
When communicated well, empathy seeps down through the organizational ranks, reaching every employee. The best way to obtain such an effect is to let an empathetic leader lead by example.
With empathy permeating every nook and cranny of your organization, you will notice improved teamwork and less conflict-triggered disruption.
Empathy Promotes the Psychological Ownership of Organizational Goals
The cream of the crop of leadership skills, empathy promotes the psychological ownership of company goals, and through it, the creativity of every employee.
An empowered employee who feels appreciated is more willing to take risks, explore innovative solutions, and come up with ideas. Such an employee takes an increased interest in improving his or her work.
Appreciated and Empowered Employees Feel More Committed to Your Organization
Absenteeism is the bane of employee retention. Employees who are not committed to your organization will find excuses of various sorts to miss work whenever possible.
Those who fail to do their workforce their colleagues to step up and make an extra effort. This leads to resentment, dealing another blow to morale. The result is a steady bleeding of talent and reduced productivity, or even mass walkouts.
Empathy is one of the leadership characteristics that has been found to be most difficult to learn and develop. The capacity for empathy is an essential component of emotional intelligence and an innate trait. That said, by paying more attention to your human interactions, you can improve this essential leadership skill.
- Listen more and make sure you genuinely listen
- Make a point of talking to people
- Focus on your vulnerability
- Make a difference: take action based on the emotional clues you pick up
Beyond allowing you to become a better leader, empathy gives you the motivation to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Are you interested in learning more about various leadership characteristics? Read my blog and check out my books as well as my speaking and coaching services.