Empathetic leaders are the ones who have a genuine interest in their teams and their colleagues. The encounters they deal with and their overall feelings, today, empathy in leadership has become essential to engage their employees, motivation and maintain a positive work culture in today's distributed workplace.
With that said, empathy is not something every leader has, or even is obligated to have, or is a superpower to be an effective leader. Instead, it is just one of the many traits that can create a strong bond with their employees. Why? Because when leaders listen to their team, the trust between them increases. Its confidence is something that every corporation desires.
Empathy is one of many critical elements of the definition of servant leadership. Empathetic leadership is the kind of leadership that makes an effort to understand and identify what employees are going through, and then offer support, help meet the individual on where they may be at that moment. To be clear, not all empathetic leaders practice servant leadership, which is also ok.
Generally, an empathetic leader interacts with others in a way that leaves their employees feeling trusted, valued, and cared for, and as though they have a solid connection based on these traits. Through varies, survey's 94% of the HR professionals and 89% of employees said empathy drives retention. However, the most surprising fact is that 79% of employees said they'd work longer hours for an empathetic leader, and 70% of employees would accept a pay cut for an employer that demonstrated empathy. Leaders think they understand their employees' needs, but in many cases, leaders struggle with connecting with their most important assets — people.
Sharing some steps to becoming an empathetic leader (even without the leadership title):
- Take care of yourself. Many ask themselves, "what does my private mental state have to do with my performance as a leader?" The truth is it plays a significant role; it's all how you interact with employees; if you aren't showing up for yourself, you will find it more challenging to show up for others or expect others to show up, set the tone, be the example.
- Acknowledge your mental state and how this influences how you see things at work and interact with your team. The way you manage is crucial by taking part in practices that boost your mental health is an excellent way to influence. Some examples are taking breaks, scheduling time with family and friends, a good sleep schedule, and a healthy diet.
- Be present with your team, take the time to set time to listen, engage, turn off any distractions. Nothing drives me nuts when conducting 1:1's, and the other individual is reading their slack, texts, and even emails. FAIL. Take this time with the individual to be curious and ask questions that show your investment, don't make this a one-sided opportunity. Show that you are invested and interested in knowing them and their success, find common ground, know they are seeking advice, not just take direction, but rather understand how you, as a leader, would handle situations. If you want something from this relationship, set the example and be present.
- As a leader, our job is to uphold empathetic relationships within our teams. Interacting with the team members will encourage them to do the same. This action will motivate the team to do so by promoting team growth and care for one another, #BetterTogether.
- As leaders, we should have the pulse of our teams. Then, leading and creating a healthy environment that enables the team to be the best version of their whole selves. As leaders, we have to tune into our intuitiveness; I learned a while ago to go with your gut feeling that we all have this ability; some ignore it and then pay for it at the end, especially if we aren't seeing the red flags in the beginning. When you identify a potential problem that could indicate that something isn't right, please bring it to the top, discuss it and deal with it as a team, provide solutions and collectively turn it around into a positive lesson.
- Finding the "why" can be very easy to judge someone's actions, by jumping to the conclusion can turn off any built trust and cause rebuilding that relationship to take longer or might end up losing a great employee or breaking that trust. As an empathetic leader, move past initial judgments and listen to an employee's reasons for doing something or acting a certain way. Granted, you may have good reason to address their actions. Not snapping to judgment might surprise you, and finding yourself with a clear picture will allow your leadership to be effective and impact your team.
- Instead of being that leader that thinks they have all the answers, become a student. Leaders who think they know it all and limit any chance to learn from those you manage should be addressed and not ignored. As leaders, we must learn to be eager to learn, listen to new ideas, and implement innovative ways. To achieve this, you must encourage collaboration to participate and think out of the box, brainstorm together, present new ideas, and learn from them. More importantly, trust your team to do the right thing and be there for guidance, help them figure out areas they are having challenges, become part of the team.
In summary, empathy creates a more loyal, engaged, and dynamic team. With compassion, it makes solid relationships. It also shows that you care value, the whole individuals. For example, an employee's performance may be struggling because they're going through something at home. You can tell; they shared that they are battling something personal and cannot give 100% at work. Instead of assuming the worst and questioning managing their work, getting to the core of the problem shows that you have a personal interest and concern for them and their mental health. In other words, they're not employees. But an individual that you have respect for.
When your team feels valued, trusted, and cared for, they become more loyal, engaged, and successful. As a bonus, you will have a high success rate investing in the value that your team brings.