In difficult times it’s easy for people to fall victim to their anxieties and fears, a natural response to an extended period of stress and uncertainty. What that means in the workplace is that more than ever before we need leaders who are empathetic—who have the ability to be compassionate and sympathetic, who can step into someone else’s shoes, who can understand and act on the needs of others. When people feel seen, heard, and understood, leadership is at its best, and empathy is what makes that happen.
Here are some of the top traits of empathetic leaders. As you read through, ask yourself how many you can claim and where you could be doing more.
Empathetic leaders listen attentively. Listening is one of the most important skills of great leaders. Too often when others are speaking we only half-listen as we judge, think of what we’re going to say in response, or interrupt. The solution to these bad habits—which can become even worse when anxiety and stress are at high levels—is the practice of empathy. Tune in with your full attention and listen to understand.
Empathetic leaders embody compassion—toward themselves and others. You can’t give what you don’t have, and you can’t serve others unless you first care for yourself. The practice of self-compassion—that is, treating yourself as you would treat someone you care about—is a necessary component of empathy.
Empathetic leaders stay connected. Building and maintaining connection is key in any relationship, in the workplace or in your personal life, and connection requires intentionality and effort. One of your top priorities as an empathetic leader in a time of crisis is to show that you care, and connection provides the way for you to make that happen.
Empathetic leaders communicate frequently. As a leader it is important to communicate what you know, candidly and clearly, as early as you can. Even if nothing is changing, staying in touch builds trust and credibility. In the absence of credible communication, damaging rumors quickly take root.
Empathetic leaders show appreciation. Whether it’s a small word of affirmation, saying “thank you” to someone for a job well done, or an announcement or email acknowledging a strong group effort, the time you spend recognizing and showing appreciation to your people is always well spent. Remember to acknowledge and praise not only results but also effort. Especially in times of insecurity, appreciation helps people feel validated and valued.
Empathy means first sharing an understanding of someone else’s experiences and then responding with compassion and caring. Empathy brings us together as human beings. And especially in times of crisis, it’s among the most important attributes you can bring to your practice of leadership.
Lead from within: Empathy is important in business and every other area of life; it helps you see with the eyes of another, listen with ears of another and feel with the heart of another.
#1 N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- How Great Leadership is Generated in Significant Crisis
- How to Lead Your Team When The Future Is Uncertain
- The One Aspect Of Crisis Management That No One Talks About
- How The Best Leaders Are Already Planning Past The Crisis
- How to Engage Employees During Uncertain Times
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.