The Real-World Benefits of Empathetic Leadership

In recent weeks, I have used the Leaders Edge blog to discuss empathy. I’ve described why I feel it is an essential aspect of leadership and I have busted some of the more common, persistent and insidious myths on the subject. What I would like to do in this week’s article is to provide details on the real-world benefits that organizations can expect to experience when their leaders become more empathetic.

Empathy is not just about feelings, emotions and connecting more deeply with others, although that would be reason enough to take it more seriously. Empathy is also related directly to societal and organizational success in measurable ways. Sadly, the last several decades have seen empathy lose its meaning and value. According to research, people are becoming less concerned about the lives of others, and they are increasingly unwilling to understand perspectives that are different from their own.

Alongside the decline for empathy in our culture and in our workplaces is a desire for change. People are waking up to the fact that empathy is fading as a cultural value, and there is a great craving for a more empathetic approach from people in leadership positions. People feel it in their hearts; their intuition tells them that empathy is what is needed to make their experiences more meaningful and their work efforts feel more valued.

Everybody seems to want more empathy in our world, and yet few people seem to be able to make the changes that would bring increased empathy to our culture and workplaces.

I believe one of the ways to address this issue is to describe the positive benefits that organizations can experience by instituting more empathetic cultures. Empathy brings clear, distinct improvements for individuals and organizations. When you can begin to see the connections between empathy and organizational success, you can begin to implement them effectively in your world.

What are some of these real, measurable benefits? Let’s take a look!

Empathy Improves Productivity

Employees perform better when they can empathize with the people on the other end of their work. Human beings have a tendency to work harder when they are made aware of the positive impacts their efforts have on others and the organization. Studies have revealed this to be true in a number of cases. For example, when radiologists are presented with photos of their patients, they are much more likely to interpret test results with greater clarity and detail. Empathy researchers have also found that cooks are more likely to create tastier meals when they have seen the faces of their customers.

Connecting with other human beings brings out the best in everyone, so it should be no surprise that productivity increases when empathy becomes an essential part of organizational culture.

Empathy Boosts Organizational Growth

You and I know that business is all about people and relationships. Healthy organizations are those that are staffed with talented, hardworking, open-minded and positive individuals, but those individuals are not always easy to find.

When leaders create cultures of empathy, it makes organizations more attractive to the best prospects and the brightest minds. People want to work in places where they can feel appreciated. A workplace culture built on empathy ensures that the finest employees are retained and that the best possible candidates for employment are interested in working there.

Leaders who institute this type of culture see the benefit not only in their engagement scores but in their bottom-line results. Great people do great work and talented, driven people are attracted to organizations built on a foundation of empathy.

Empathy Makes Collaboration Easier

Project Aristotle” was Google’s endeavor to learn what makes great teams within organizations. What the project found was that successful teams are not necessarily made up of the smartest, most brilliant people. Instead, Google discovered that empathy is the secret ingredient that makes teams more collaborative and successful.

When employees are skilled at reading nonverbal cues and detecting emotional states of others, they are more likely to address issues that might be impacting their teammates. This type of communication is rooted in empathy, and it has been shown to strengthen teamwork, morale and engagement.

Additionally, when people practice empathy through the act of listening – rather than feeling the need to speak more – the intelligence level of the whole group rises, aiding collaboration and boosting productivity.

Empathy Brings out the Best Within Diverse Workforces

One of the great aspects of modern organizations is the way workforces have become more diverse. When different perspectives are brought together under the same organizational roof, everyone benefits. Unfortunately, sometimes old-school thinking surfaces, making it difficult for members of diverse teams to work together.

Empathy is one of the major keys to support the unlocking of the power of diversity and inclusion. When an organizational culture values empathy, employees are more likely to embrace one another in more meaningful ways. They are more willing to explore and find common points of interest that binds them together as human beings who are striving to achieve the same end goal. 

Empathy Improves Reputations

How is your organization’s reputation built? Most likely, it is constructed through human interactions. When your organization's customer-facing personnel treat people with empathy, it has an amazingly positive effect on the public’s perception.

Take Ryanair, for example. In 2014, the airline instituted its “Always Getting Better” program, in which it strived to improve its public reputation. The company removed restrictions and made life easier for passengers. Essentially, they tuned in to the wants and needs of their customers on emotional, financial and practical levels. As a result, the company improved its reputation and it also increased profits by more than 30 percent.

According to the candid words of Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, “If I’d only known being nice to customers was going to work so well, I’d have started many years ago.” The lesson? Don’t wait to make your organization more empathetic.

You Can Be the Driving Force of Empathy Within Your Organization

As you read through the above examples of how empathy benefits organizations, you probably began to wonder if you have what it takes to drive a rise in empathy within your professional world. Here’s the truth: you do have what it takes to be a more effective, empathetic leader.

That being said, the road to improved empathy can be a difficult one to travel, especially if you’re walking it alone.

If you’re wondering how you can gain an empathy boost and begin to create a more empathetic culture within your organization, I would love to talk with you.

Give me a call at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at to learn more.

Want more information on empathy and how you can use it to improve your organization? I will conclude this series next week with some tips and advice designed to help you get closer to your empathy goals. See you next week!

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