People all around us are hurting, confused and frustrated. They are involved inside our families and the businesses that we work in every day. Down deep, they long for someone to listen to them and feel the things that they are feeling. As leaders, they need our empathy. Empathy by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Jesus showed empathy many times in scripture. One account is found in John 11:33-35 — When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
Empathy takes time, but it is time well invested. As leaders, we must take the time to serve well, and growing in our empathy for others is a great way to support those that need us. Wherever you find yourself leading today, I hope that you will continue reading and discover how you can experience growth in your level of empathy for the people that you lead.
Recently the following blog, written by Doug Dickerson, came to my email and reminded me of the importance of growing my level of empathy for others. Keep reading; you will be challenged!
Many characteristics belong in the mix for being a good leader. Empathy is crucial to that mix. That you have an awareness and intuition concerning the people you lead is essential to your success as a leader.
Too often however, many leaders are not engaged with the people they lead much less sensitive to their needs or receptive to their concerns.
Writing in usnews.com, Tom Risen cited a survey that showed “51 percent of U.S. managers are not engaged in their work, and another 14 percent are actively disengaged”. With this type of disengagement taking place in the workplace, is it any wonder that empathy is a leadership skill that needs to be addressed?
While some may be dismissive of the importance of empathy in leadership-that it’s just a “soft skill” that’s beneath them, I respectfully disagree.
What would the landscape of your organization look like if more leaders in it took the time to be invested and empathetic? How would morale be different? What if you, as a leader, were more intentional about the concerns of the people you lead? What would those characteristics look like? Here is a sampling.
The empathetic leader is connected to his people
The key to understanding your people is being with your people. The basis for effective leadership is found in building relationships. The disconnect many leaders struggle with is predicated on and is the consequence of poor relationships. If as a leader you are not working on the relationship, the divide and disconnect will only widen.
The empathetic leader cares about his people
The most appreciable asset any leader has is his or her people. As you develop empathy as a leader you will come to discover that the success of your people is your success. Their concerns are your concerns. Their frustrations are your frustrations. And at the end of the day, their wins are your wins. With empathy, you put yourself in their shoes and commit yourself to doing everything within your power to ensure their success.
The empathetic leader listens to his people
Simply put, there’s no magic wand that a leader can wave to make them more empathetic. It’s a skill that is developed over time. It’s a two-fold process in which being intentional about it is paramount. Unless you commit yourself to the development of this skill it’s not going to just happen.
But just as important is art of listening. Empathetic leaders are careful and intentional about listening to their people. It’s when your people have your ear, you will have their heart. It’s as you listen to your people that trust is established, morale rebounds, loyalty is secured, and your leadership is proven. Listening is for your benefit just as much as it is theirs. Listening is not about appeasement, it’s about action.
A final word
Empathy will elevate your leadership and it will help you build positive relationships with your people. It’s when you empathize with your people that you can become more effective in leading them.