Empathetic Leadership – Empathy is a ‘Must Have’ for Leaders

empathetic leadership

Written by Mary Asante

Last updated: 09/06/2022

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Empathetic leadership is essential in the workplace now more than ever. With a lot going on in peoples’ lives, placing your employees’ well-being at the heart of your leadership. This will set you apart from other leaders. Self-aware leaders show more empathy towards people. The expression of empathy by leaders impacts both the personal and professional lives of employees.

With some sectors struggling to recruit, statistics show that there are now more job vacancies than there are unemployed people in the UK. So, it is a job-seekers market. With the great resignation, employees are expected to resign from roles that they are unhappy in. These also include roles that they are not satisfied in, terrible managers and leaders, and organisations that do not have great values or offer a better work-life balance.

The Impact on Positive Culture

As an empathetic leader, you will get to know your employees better. You will develop a stronger relationship with them. Being a great leader is about taking good care of your people. Your leadership style will enable you to take an empathetic approach in dealing with matters. Such as challenges at work, and matters with your employees and clients. Empathetic leaders will have a high level of emotional intelligence. As an empathetic leader, you will be able to recognise and understand how people feel. As well as the impact of emotions and behaviours at work. Being an empathetic leader helps you build a positive working environment and culture. Your employees will appreciate your leadership style and approach. They will in turn do their best to support you in your mission to grow your organisation.

Empathetic Leadership and Motivation

Your ability to understand your employees and what is important to them will help you as a leader to know what motivates them. You will understand their key drivers. Thus, you will know how to motivate them. Knowing your employees will help you to inspire them. Understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses helps you to develop them. It also helps you to develop appropriate personal development plans. It also helps with implementing effective strategies and programmes for your team.

empathetic leadership positivity
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The effect of Empathetic Leadership on Wellbeing

Your employees’ well-being, is about their physical, mental and social well-being. As an empathetic leader, you will be aware of the impact of stress. Also, the impact of burn-out and a toxic working environment. Further, you’ll also be aware of poor working conditions, long working hours, and ill-health. As well as how these affect your employees and their productivity, their well-being and morale.

You can take positive actions. Work closely with your leadership and management teams. As well as with your employees too. As a result, you will be able to create a better working environment and a good work-life balance. Ensuring that your employees have manageable workloads will also help to achieve those. Recognising the support they need to do their work will help towards feelin safe at work. An employee assistance programme also helps towards feeling safe at work.

Why do Leaders have difficulty expressing empathy?

One of the biggest concerns for leaders who do not express empathy is that they will be perceived as weak. People will take advantage of you. You employ people and pay them to do their work. Why do you need to invest your time and effort in developing a relationship with them? You do not want to get involved in their personal lives.

It is harder for some leaders to acknowledge stress and burn-out in the workplace. It is even more difficult for them to accept how it impacts their employees. Some leaders still struggle with employees being unwell due to mental health. The prospect of an employee going on sickness absence leave due to stress, depression or anxiety is a serious concern for most leaders. Leaders worry that once an employee goes off sick, they are likely to be off for a significant period. Leaders are also very quick and keen to rule out that such ailment is work-related.

Some leaders also believe that stress ‘comes with the job’. How can an employee be productive if they can’t stand stress? You, therefore, find it hard to understand why employees may struggle with stress. Whilst a little bit of stress may have a positive impact on a short term outcome, for example, an employee may experience a little bit of stress before a major presentation. The employee can become energetic, focused and able to deliver. However, too much stress, at a point where your employee is not able to cope damages their well-being. This will affect their productivity and lead to a loss of interest in work among other things.

Empathetic Leadership in Practice

Perspective

Empathetic leaders are more perspective. Empathetic leaders will be able to understand the employee’s viewpoint. You will be able to consider options and solutions to challenges. Take into account what your employee may be going through. You will be able to make well informed and balanced choices.

Check-in Regularly

Empathetic leaders spend time getting to know your team. You check in regularly with them to make sure that they are doing alright. As an empathetic leader, you do not only go to your team when it is purely business. You show up for them, especially when they are going through a difficult time. Your actions demonstrate that you truly care about your people.

Align Goals

Your development plans for people will be person-centric. This will be for each member of your team or every employee in the organisation. You will take into account what motivates your employees, and what they want to achieve in their careers. Where they want to develop and what is important to them. You will be able to align their developmental goals to your organisation’s goals. This is important for ensuring that you improve job satisfaction and retain your best talent.

Connect

By connecting with your employees on a human level, you will be able to share your experiences and emotions in particular situations with your employees. You will be able to share any pitfalls and lessons learnt in your career freely with your employees. This will help them to understand and learn from you.

Open-door Policy

Leaders with a genuine open-door policy make it easier for employees to approach you and talk to you. Having an open-door policy means that you become accessible to your employees. They do not have to go through layers of management before they get to you. Your employees can contact you via phone or email. This is particularly useful when employees are working remotely or are out on clients’ sites.

Listen

Listen to your employees with an open mind. Be attentive and present when having discussions with your employees. Show that you understand their perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. Remember, you do not need to agree with everything your employees say. You just need to listen with an open mind, to understand their view.

empathetic leadership listening
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Self-aware

Be self-aware. Understand how your emotions and behaviours affect your employees and your clients. Develop a better working relationship with your team. Be empathetic and considerate when dealing with your employees. This does not mean that you do not manage poor performance or workplace challenges. It means that you handle situations better. Your solutions are fair and equitable.

Empathetic leadership leads to loyalty, an increase in productivity and a better working environment. It also results in innova, and improvement in employee wellbeing, innovation and profitability. Empathy is therefore a ‘must have’ for leaders, rather than a nice to have. It is critical to your success as a leader and that of your organisation.

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