Don't Skip This Crucial Ingredient

Don't Skip This Crucial Ingredient

What comes to mind when you hear the term "Empathic Leadership"?

Do you roll your eyes at what sounds like a cliché? Or think “Of course I’m empathic, I’m nice, I care. I'm sure everyone knows that."

Maybe it seems like a soft and squishy concept. Or HR’s area, not yours. Hmmm...

First, what are we talking about when we refer to empathy? It’s actually quite simple: the people you lead need to feel truly seen, heard and understood!

Put yourself in their shoes. Really. Keep their best interests in mind. Imagine how you can help them have a better experience. Make their jobs easier. And ask them how they're doing, frequently. Let them know (in word and deed) that they are core to your mission.

Show that you care about them, as people. Yep, this is essential to business results.

In an environment where leaders show empathy:

It’s safe to admit mistakes. 

Errors can be caught and corrected faster, and learned from. You'll be able to update processes and procedures from lived experience, and even find opportunities to turn missteps into a huge positive. And if you want innovation, guess what? That requires taking risks. (Google is a company that excels at this.) If your people aren’t allowed to potentially make mistakes, there will be no risk-taking and no true innovation and creativity.

Everyone feels like they can contribute ideas and opinions.

Studies show that when you have diverse sources considering a problem, you understand the problem more accurately. Input from different team members also encourages “integrative thinking” and leads to better and more creative solutions. No matter what’s decided in the end, if people feel like they’ve been meaningfully included in the process, they’ll be more likely to follow through, quickly and well, together.

Employees are more likely to feel loyal, motivated and engaged.

In the absence of empathy, people get defensive, territorial and stay in a survival mindset. It’s everyone for themselves. This kind of attitude encourages entrenched opinions. You have to prove you’re right. You close up. Eventually you think: Why bother? You no longer care. You have one foot out the door. 


In contrast, an empathic environment is an invitation to be yourself, to contribute your best, to shine. You look for opportunities, you help other people and they help you, and it’s a whole different environment.

Simply put, empathy and true understanding opens the door to all possibilities. Isn’t that something to actively cultivate in these uncertain, competitive, fast-moving times?

(And don’t forget to have empathy towards yourself. It’s the antidote to the inner critic, and numerous studies have shown that self-compassion is immensely healthy and powerful.)

What’s one action you can take today to help someone feel that you truly empathize with them?