Why Empathy in Leadership is a Good Idea

A 2019 University of Oxford study found that workers are 13 percent more productive when happy, providing a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. As fear- and shame-based business models fall away, millennial-led trends of kinder, happier working environments and empathetic leadership are fast becoming the norm.

Here’s how and why being an empathetic leader is vital.

Much more than being “nice,” empathy is understanding what someone is going through by looking at the situation from their perspective. In terms of leadership, empathy is understanding the varied, complex communication styles of each employee as well as acknowledging they lead separate lives outside of work.

By stepping outside themselves and into the shoes of others, empathetic leaders value open communication and relationship building. They also create a safe environment where employees can communicate their stress without fear.

It’s not about talking through the minutiae but rather working together to make the personal work experience less stressful by playing to strengths, working on weaknesses and clarifying uncertainties, much like an experienced coach and a well-oiled team.

Empathy also means facilitating problem-solving over reactivity. Steering clear of bad management pitfalls such as sending negative after-work emails, pointing fingers and scolding, an empathetic leader addresses the issue holistically. Allowing room for mistakes and subsequent problem-solving means that employees feel comfortable coming to you with challenges and will, in turn, be more transparent in their work.

When you lead empathetically, the workspace opens up to new perspectives, bright ideas and constructive solutions. With a positive feedback loop, empathetic leaders view diversity and inclusion as part of the fabric of a successful business. Inclusion-focused workplaces often find it easier to acquire and retain talent, increase performance and boost employee engagement.

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