Empathetic Leaders Needed!
It’s been rough at work, your workmate is struggling, they have financial pressures, less work and they are home schooling their kids who constantly interrupt zoom meetings! Your response, I hear you! Does this really display empathy to your struggling workmate? NO WAY! Empathy is so important today and, it is essential that leaders include empathy as an important leadership skill in creating a future of work foundation!
“We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.” Carl Rogers
Empathy or Sympathy – is there a difference?
An animated short video by Brené Brown highlights an important difference between empathy and sympathy: “Empathy fuels Connection, Sympathy drives disconnection.”
Elizabeth A. Segal, Ph.D. describes in her 2018 Psychology Today article that “Empathy Is More Than “I Hear You.” When we think of empathy we are likely to imagine “walking a mile in another’s shoes.” It’s true that if we imagine what that person is feeling or thinking we might feel empathy, but not necessarily. Being sad with another person might elicit sympathy or pity, but not necessarily feelings of empathy. When we see someone suffering—crying because a beloved parent died—we may feel for the person; that is, compassion and sympathy for such a painful loss. But we may not feel with the person; that is, understand what the other person’s sadness feels like. Or, we might share their sad feelings, but then interpret them from our own perspective. We might think about how we would feel after such a personal loss, not how the other person is actually feeling. Empathy is an umbrella term that can be broken down into two levels: Interpersonal empathy is concerned with improving relationships between individuals, while social empathy is concerned with improving the relationships and rules of behaviour between different groups and cultures. Experiencing the full array of empathy includes sharing physical and emotional feelings while knowing that those feelings belong to the other person.
Empathy is so important now!
A March 2020 article “Leading with Empathy Is Now More Important than Ever,” emphasises that a lot has changed in recent times. To weather the storm, organizational leaders need to guide their teams with empathy and it is increasingly valued as a quality that strong leaders should have. All of these personal issues are amplified during this crisis and unsurprisingly, they can affect your team’s ability to be productive, healthy, and happy. Whether your organization is trying to support your newly remote workforce, or providing some assurance during these turbulent times, a little bit of empathy goes a long way.
Empathy is an “Essential Leadership Skill”
In Forbes it is shown that “Empathy Is an Essential Leadership Skill — And There’s Nothing Soft about It.” The US Army Field Manual on Leader Development insists that empathy is essential for competent leadership. Empathy predicts the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and without empathy, you can’t build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Empathy is one of the core five essential capacities (the others are self-awareness, trust, critical thinking and discipline/self-control). While successful business leaders are often extremely fast information processors, a 90-second investment of time can prevent employee’s feeling humiliated about something. If you’re ill or tired, it’s hard to have empathy for anyone but yourself and that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t last too long and you know to check back in with the human beings around you.
How YOU can show Empathy
A centre for Creative Leadership article highlights “The Importance of Empathy in the Workplace.” Managers and leaders need to be more effective in moving their organization forward by demonstrating empathy. Displaying empathy in the workplace can take many shapes and forms and there are Four Ways Leaders Can Show Empathy in the Workplace:
- Watch for signs of overwork in others
- Show sincere interest in the needs, hopes and dreams of other people
- Demonstrate willingness to help an employee with personal problems
- Show compassion when other people disclose a personal loss
You will be remembered by your actions every day!
In my blog “Stop being Selfish,” I indicated that during this crisis time, all eyes are on leaders (and others). Everyone is watching your words, actions and choices. We have seen the best and worst of others and the ones who will come out on top are those who are courageous, kind and practice authentic leadership, which is about how you can help and serve others. It is about compassion and empathy and it is not a time to be SELFISH! Look at the executives and companies who are giving up salaries and bonuses to keep their people versus the companies who are not?
Once this is all over and we get through this – how do you want to be remembered and what legacy and impact you want to leave. If you want to stop being selfish – practice gratitude, reach out to others and see how you can help, show you care, check in with others overall ensuring you lead with kindness and empathy.
Leadership isn’t easy and sometimes we need help. I am always here.
Get in touch to learn more about how to build leadership skills to include empathy and set yourself up for success!
Stay Kind. Stay Courageous.