Empathy is an essential part of a healthy workplace. In this article, I want to talk about empathy as an important aspect of leadership.
As leaders, we must understand that people are not numbers or statistics on a balance sheet, they’re human beings with emotions. When we focus on how others feel, we can develop better relationships, which will make for healthier outcomes overall.
First, I want to clarify something about empathy. Empathy sometimes requires you to emotionally share other people’s experiences. It also requires critical thought – not just an emotional response.
Empathy forms relationships
When you put the needs of others before your own, you can build a strong connection with people. You can better relate to your people and understand their interests and points of view. Imagine the impact on your teams, company, and leadership if you develop and nurture empathy.
Empathy supports understanding
It’s sometimes difficult to comprehend why someone feels the way they do. People frequently behave in ways that are unexpected, and you may not know how to reply.
With empathy as part of your leadership abilities, you don’t have to stress over how to react or respond, because the goal is to listen and understand. You may understand others without passing judgment or making assumptions if you have empathy.
Empathy nurtures better communication
Empathetic leaders can create a safe space for people to communicate. In the workplace, it’s vital that everyone feels free to express their thoughts and feelings on any matter or issue.
If empathy is part of your leadership abilities, then you will actively listen instead of focusing on how what someone says makes you feel about them. When you’re acting from a place of empathy, you engage with others in such a way that they want to talk to you and feel comfortable doing so.
Now that we know what empathy does, I want to share with you 3 crucial traits that can help establish an empathetic leader.
An empathetic leader is easy to talk to
They can listen and understand what someone is saying without thinking about how it will affect themselves.
They recognize everyone has their own story and perspective on things based on experiences in life that we can’t know or see from our point of view alone.
I want to remind you that we don’t constrain leadership to levels or positions. People often overlook this, which ultimately affects the approachability of a leader. It shouldn’t be intimidating to talk to a leader because they are in a higher position. Quite the contrary. Your team should be able to look for guidance from you anytime they are facing challenges.
An empathetic leader makes people feel cared for
Have you ever met or had a leader who makes you feel like they truly care? Remember that feeling next time you talk to your people. As a leader, you can talk to your people and show empathy through the following ways:
- Ask what’s going on in their lives, and how are they coping with work.
- Encourage them when they face challenges and celebrate successes with them.
- Share personal experiences related to work like how you faced a difficult client or handled working late hours before.
An empathetic leader motivates their people
You can easily motivate people when things are going well. But empathy is about more than just being there for them in times of joy and success. It also means creating a safe environment where you can be open with each other, even if something isn’t working out the way it should or could have been better handled by someone else.
It’s important that you, an empathetic leader, make people feel like they can speak up, innovate, and take part in new challenges. If you encourage your people to be proactive in their work and express themselves, they’ll feel more empathy towards others.
The last part of the leadership empathy puzzle is 3 steps to become a more empathetic leader. If you already practice empathy, you can use these 3 steps to further improve your understanding and use of empathy in the workplace.
Step 1 - Take care of your mental health.
We often underestimate our mental health in our efforts to become better leaders. Mental health in empathy is vital. Your mindset affects what you see and how your people will perceive you as a leader.
Pay attention to how your mental state affects the way you perceive work, how you interact with your team, and how you handle it.
Participating in activities that improve your mental health is an outstanding place to start. Exercising, keeping track of your time, making time for family and friends, having a healthy eating plan, and getting enough rest are just a few examples.
Step 2 - Watch out for warning signs
As a leader, you must be highly perceptive. Your job is to assess your team’s condition and then guide them accordingly. Enable them to become the best version of themselves.
Along the way, pay attention to warning signs, as they hide in plain sight. If you notice your team is more irritable than usual, they might be overworked. If they’re not as engaged as before, maybe there’s a problem at work.
These warning signals will help you react on time and prevent a potential crisis.
Step 3 - Be a lifelong learner
Empathy is a skill that you can learn and then master. It’s not something innate, it’s part of the mindset. Learn to be a student who is keen to learn, wants to hear new ideas, and will try out novel approaches.
To do so, you must inspire others to get involved and be creative, constructively debate new concepts, and improve from them.
How does empathy make a healthy workplace?
The difference between a good leader and a great one may be empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand, share, and appreciate another person’s feelings from their perspective. It’s not just about being nice- it’s about building relationships that are strong enough to withstand any obstacle or difficulty that might arise.
In order for you to become more empathetic as a leader, take care of your mental health by watching out for warning signs so you can address them early on before they snowball into something too big to handle.
Remember also that there will always be opportunities for learning how to better lead your team members if you’re willing to invest in yourself!
How do you nurture empathy in leadership? Share your experiences in the comments!