Good leaders know that leadership only works if you can work effectively with other people. They use empathy as a leadership skill to build strong relationships and get others to buy in to their vision. However, empathy is not an easy skill to develop.
What is Empathy?
“Essentially, empathy is a moral value. It means listening to others and putting yourself in their shoes, to understand their feelings and views.”
However, this can lead to misunderstandings about empathy and leadership. People can mistake understanding the viewpoints of others as then having to agree or comply with them, and therefore thinking of being empathetic as displaying weak leadership.
“This is one of the biggest barriers to overcome in learning empathy as a leadership skill. It’s not about letting power and position drain away, but in fact quite the opposite. Being empathetic strengthens leadership, because it helps you interact better with others.”
What Benefits Does Empathy Bring?
“Being empathetic helps you to connect with others on a more profound level. It enables you to take the other’s perspective, which, in turn, helps you gain a wider perspective.”
Sound leadership involves a good understanding of situations, weighing things up before making critical decisions.
“Understanding others helps you see all the possibilities or obstacles and gain insight into issues.”
As part of problem-solving and overcoming obstacles, empathy also has great value in helping people reach a consensus.
“If you are not empathetic, you won’t find solutions that are mutually acceptable, as discussions work if you understand the opinions, feelings and intentions of other people in the room”
There are also benefits from how empathy makes people feel.
“It makes others feel good, if you listen to the concerns and feelings they have and demonstrate your understanding of them. Also, it boosts your own sense of wellbeing because you’re being genuinely helpful.”
How Do Leaders Learn Empathy?
“We’ve already seen how people might put up barriers against empathy if they perceive it as weakness. For leaders, overcoming these self-imposed barriers can be a major challenge.”
Therefore, learning empathy is a gradual process.
“Becoming empathic is not an instant fix, as it takes patience and perseverance and it’s about becoming a role model and learning how to be with others”
“You can still be assertive, but at the same time bear in mind the feelings of the people you work with, and who work for you.”
“To embrace empathy takes time,” concludes Lisa. “It means becoming better at listening to other voices. Leadership is not a lone activity, it requires the co-operation and collaboration of others.”
Additionally, Ubuntu HR has devised a report with our sister magazine, HR Aspects Magazine, which looks at;
- Why investing in leadership training is critical for your business
- The qualities leaders require to become vital agents of change
To get a copy of the report, please visit ubuntuhr.co.uk.