Pop Quiz! Are You Leading with Empathy?

Key insights:

  • Empathy is a major factor when it comes to organizational success
  • Organizations with cultures of empathy experience real, measurable benefits
  • Leaders must be the ones who create these cultures within their respective organizations
  • Anyone can become more empathetic, but it often requires expert coaching

I hope you have enjoyed following along over the past several weeks as I have explored empathy’s critical role in leadership.

Today’s leaders absolutely need empathy in order to remain relevant and ensure they are keeping their people engaged. To me, it is a non-negotiable aspect of leadership. Sure, in decades past, leaders did not view empathy as essential or even as a “nice to have.” Quite the contrary, it was viewed by many as a weakness. Surprisingly, that viewpoint is still practiced and celebrated by many modern leaders, but guess what? It isn’t working.

As I look over the leadership landscape, the organizations that thrive are the ones being led by emotionally intelligent, mindful and empathetic leaders. The most talented employees crave empathy in their leaders and superstar employees demand it. Leaders and organizations that refuse to become more empathetic will suffer from a lack of engagement and will be challenged to create a high-performing culture.

The good news is that empathy can be learned, nurtured and ultimately improved upon with effort and time. While some people may have a natural knack for empathy, they aren’t the only ones who can practice it authentically. Everyone can become more empathetic and it may be more difficult for some than others, but the effort is well worth the reward.

Today I’d like to give you a little quiz on empathy just so you can see where you’re at and where you need to go. But first, let’s get into some of the facts we know about empathy and leadership.

What We Know About Empathy and Leadership

Empathy is the quality that brings people together, connects them in meaningful ways and gives them the power to create strength in numbers. Obviously, these are all beneficial qualities for business. When it comes to empathy and leadership here are a few of the ways in which becoming more empathetic can benefit organizations when leaders make it a priority:

When Leaders Operate with Empathy, Workplaces Are Happier

Today’s employees are happiest when they find purpose and satisfaction in their work. Workplaces that are built on cultures of empathy increase the likelihood that employees will feel happiness while on the job. As I’m sure you understand, happy workplaces are productive workplaces – and it all starts with leadership.

Empathy Makes Workplaces More Collaborative

When people work together, they accomplish much more than they ever could on their own. A culture of empathy is one in which employees are eager to share ideas, insights and talents with others, giving the entire organization a huge boost. Again, collaborative workplaces built on the foundation of empathy only come into existence when leaders exhibit empathy themselves and prioritize it as a key component of culture.

Empathy Is Linked Directly to Performance and Productivity

Employees who feel understood are far more likely to perform at a high level. They work confidently, with the knowledge that what they do is appreciated. They also understand that they provide value to the entire organization, which fuels them to always do their best. Leaders who take the time to truly understand their people achieve much more than those who fail to do this.

How Empathetic Is Your Leadership?

Some leaders are naturally empathetic. They are gifted in that regard and seem to have an innate ability to see the world through the eyes of others. Some leaders exist on the opposite end of the spectrum: They don’t seem to have a natural gift for the quality, nor do they have any interest in understanding it, much less implementing it in their leadership. I’m guessing that if you’re here reading this, you are not one of those leaders.

The leaders I want to reach are those who may not have natural empathetic gifts, but understand the importance of empathy, and want to create more empathetic cultures within their workforces. I also want to make sure leaders like you are honest with your self-assessments. I see numerous leaders who value empathy and talk the talk, but they still have difficulty “walking the walk.”

Are you leading with empathy? Keep track of your responses to this true/false quiz.

#1 – “When an employee comes to me with a complaint, I provide examples of people who have it worse to show that there is nothing worth complaining about.”

#2 – “Showing my understanding of a person’s problem or issue usually leads to them opening up more and communicating more vulnerably, which helps me use my leadership skills appropriately.”

#3 – “I have a much fuller and clearer understanding than others do when it comes to the reasons for their problems/difficulties at work.”

#4 – “If I don’t understand a person’s perspective, I tend to ask questions in order to better comprehend them.”

#5 – “I like to offer my expert analysis of peoples’ problems, challenges and difficulties, even when they don’t ask for it.”

#6 – “It’s often more important to focus on a person’s emotions rather than their actions or motivations.”

#7 – “People don’t want me to get to know them; they want me to provide solutions based on my expertise, wisdom and experience.”

#8 – “In communication, listening is much more important than speaking, particularly if I want to truly understand what someone is going through.”

#9 – “To me, empathy means imagining how I would feel in a certain situation. If I can do that, then I can understand exactly how another person would feel. After all, everybody is the same, right?”

#10 – “In terms of my communications as a leader, it’s not about being right and asserting my dominance; it’s about learning, understanding and seeking to fill in areas that may be blind spots so I can lead people more effectively.”

So, how do you think you did?

If you answered “true” to a majority of even-numbered questions, and “false” to a majority of odd-numbered questions, you are on the right track with your ability to lead with empathy. However, if your answers went in the opposite direction, your empathy instincts could use some adjusting.

Are You Ready to Unlock the Power of Empathetic Leadership?

Regardless of how you performed on this quiz, there is no harm in making empathy a core value that you nurture, grow and practice throughout your life. Your ability to understand others on a deeper, more human level will only enhance your leadership and make you more attractive to the types of excellent employees you want to work for your organization.

Unfortunately, many leaders come to the realization that they could benefit from enhancing their empathy, but they fail to take the steps to become more empathetic. Or they feel they do not have the time or tools to make strides when it comes to empathy. I understand that, and I want to help.

I have always been a naturally empathetic person myself, but I have enhanced my empathy by working on it diligently over the years. I have also helped numerous leaders unlock their ability to be empathetic, much to the delight of their employees and stakeholders. Now I want to help you unlock your empathy so you can ascend to a new level of leadership.

Are you ready to learn more about how you can enhance your empathy and become the best leader you can be for your people and organization? I would love to discuss a plan of action with you.

Feel free to give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 to start the conversation. Or if you’d prefer, send me an email at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca. I am excited to talk about empathy with you!

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