Published June 28, 2020 by with 0 comment

Empathy and Leadership

All leaders in the organizations expect their employees to give one-hundred percent in achieving the organizational goals. Usually, they would set the goals for the organization, break-down those goals based on each employee's role and responsibilities, and come up with individual goals.

While this helps in coming up with relevant goals for each of the employees, from the perspective of growing the organization and achieving greater success, doing it without considering how the goals would help the employee grow, could result in lack of motivation amongst employees.

Empathetic leaders take into consideration their employee's individual sense of purpose, so they can align it with the organizational goals for the mutual benefit of both.

What is Empathy?

In simple words, empathy is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person, and understanding their perspective. With empathy, one can connect with others and relate to them, thereby building a strong relationship, without which the relationship is mostly superficial. An empathetic person is a good listener, who doesn't judge others based on what they share.

Importance of Empathy in Leadership

Empathy is critical in becoming an effective leader. With empathy, leaders are able to connect well with their employees, thereby building trust with them. Empathy enables leaders in understanding the needs of an employee, and thus they are able to provide the opportunities for them to grow and succeed. When employees know that the leader is aware of their feelings, they show faith in their decisions.

On the other hand, when leaders lack empathy, they are seen more as a manager rather than a leader. Lack of empathy shows up when a leader expects the employees to think the same way as they do. For example, a leader puts in long working hours, and expects the same for their employees to do, even though the working situations are very different for each of them.

Employees find empathetic leaders as approachable, and are able to openly share their concerns with them. Empathetic leaders listen to their employees, makes them comfortable. This helps in building up a very open culture in the organization, and the employees feel valued.

Empathetic leaders are able to understand the strength and weakness of their employees, and accordingly provide them with opportunities that would help them grow and succeed. When leaders don't understand the capability of their employees, it may result in dissatisfaction amongst employees, and they feel demotivated. This in turn impacts the growth of an organization, as the employees become less productive.

On the same lines, empathetic leaders are able to understand the reason of poor performance of their employees, and thus are able to take necessary actions to nurture an environment, where employees are not scared of failing. This also enables employees to be innovative at work, because they know they have a leader who believes in them.

How to Develop Empathy?

Be a good listener. The first and foremost method of developing empathy is by being a good listener. As a leader, make sure you listen to your employees, without judging them. You should put all your personal motives aside, and just be there and listen to them. Give your full attention to your employees and don't get distracted by phone calls or texts.

Consider employee's growth while defining goals. When defining goals for your employees, understand how those goals would also help the employee achieve personal growth and success. Try to understand what motivation, employee can find while working towards achieving those goals. While giving them new assignments, try to gauge if they are excited about it or they are taking it as just another work item. While it's not always possible to give what your employee needs, it's important to make them understand why you chose them for this assignment, and help them see the growth opportunity.

Conduct regular one-on-one meetings with your employees. More often than not, leaders use such meetings to give feedback to their employees on where they lack and what they should do to improve. While this is important, it's also important to take feedback from employees on how you are performing as a leader for them. This again somewhere ties to the trait of being a good listener, but giving them a platform to share their needs and concerns makes sure you get a regular feedback. At times, we have employees who don't talk much, and they don't reach out by themselves, even if there's something troubling them. One-on-one meetings comes handy in such situations, where you can encourage them to speak and share their feelings with you.

Reach out to your employees. Last, but not the least, reach out to your employees and talk to them about their personal lives. Show interest in their hobbies, ask them what they do on weekends, talk about their families. This helps in building a strong relationship, and helps your employees open up to you. While doing this, it helps to share your personal life experiences with them too, to get the conversation going. Knowing your employees at personal level helps you further understand their personal situations and challenges.

Developing empathy doesn't happen all at once. It's like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you become at it.


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