Leaders who demonstrate empathy are more effective than those who don’t. This is because empathy can help leaders raise engagement, increase loyalty, and ultimately convey their humanity, which makes them more approachable and able to be influenced.
Empathy helps convey that you are able to identify the feeling another has, touch that feeling yourself, and offer to help the other person deal with that feeling or situation. Empathy enables connection like nothing else because it provides the receiver of this empathetic response to feel truly heard.
Unlike sympathy, which is about sharing the feelings of another, empathy is about being able imagine what it might be like to have those feelings. It is about understanding and putting oneself into the other’s position. This helps people connect far more than sympathy.
In politics we’ve witnessed many examples of previous Presidents expressing empathy. For example, President Reagan capture the emotions of the country with his eulogy to the crew of the space shuttle Challenger after it exploded. President Clinton channeled the country’s grief after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. President G. W. Bush shed tears and hugs with families of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. President Obama openly wept after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s hard to think of an example for President Trump, who I have yet to witness demonstrate empathy.
In business there is great opportunity for leaders to demonstrate empathy during this Covid-19 pandemic. It can be done by finding creative ways to serve customers more compassionately. It can be demonstrated through the shared sacrifice a company chooses in reducing the number of layoffs by cutting back salaries for senior executives and removing some benefits for every employee. It can be done in the way they conduct their business to employees, customers, shareholders and the surrounding community.
Business leaders who demonstrate empathy:
- Enable people to feel safe with failures as they are not simply blamed for them
- Look to understand the root cause behind poor performance
- Help struggling employees improve themselves
- Enable the opportunity to influence and be influenced by others
- Build and develop relationships with those they lead
Empathy should also be viewed as a data gathering tool to help you understand the human environment in which you operate your business. This data can then enable you to make better predictions, determine appropriate tactics, inspire loyalty and communicate clearly.
It can play a powerful role in how well you are able to influence others. This begins with warmth you project in your interactions as a way to help build rapport and trust. Empathy means you choose to actively listen, so others feel heard based on the behavior they see you demonstrate. And the compassion you convey through your empathy brings about a deep and lasting connection. Embracing and demonstrating empathy towards others greatly enhances your ability to influence them effectively. And this is absolutely necessary in order to lead others.
The best leaders are those who lead with empathy. This is needed more than ever during this pandemic and in the challenging months ahead.