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Published on March 16, 2022

The Importance of Leading With Empathy (And How To Do It)

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The Importance of Leading With Empathy (And How To Do It)

Whether you’re a corporate executive or entrepreneur, you’ll need a good understanding of effective leadership. Without strong leaders, everything crumbles. Leaders can create structure and organization and directly contribute to productivity.

Good leaders inspire teams to thrive and ultimately affect a company’s bottom line. Strong entrepreneurial leaders manage remote teams in a way that leads to the growth of that entrepreneur’s business. Good leaders inspire you to be better; bad leaders leave you frustrated.

The Importance of Leading With Empathy

One of the keys to effective leadership is leading with empathy. In a time when the world is embracing the need for more diversity and inclusion, leading with empathy is even more essential. People don’t want a leader that doesn’t make them feel represented and heard.

Empathy comes from a place of someone not wanting to understand other human beings. Empathic leaders cultivate strong teams because those they are leading feel valued and understood. Empathy, therefore, is an integral part of leadership and growth.

Why Strong Leaders Lead With Empathy

Here’s why leading with empathy is essential to becoming a strong leader and how to become a leader people want to follow by understanding and leading with empathy. Use these strategies to become the kind of leader that inspires change.

Empathic leaders not only care, but they also lead with a more intentional understanding of the people they’re leading. Leading with empathy creates charismatic leaders that teams and consumers want to follow. It is an irresistibly compelling leadership quality.

Each of us has experienced terrible leadership. If you’re a career professional, you’ve had a boss that micromanaged everything within the organization. The leader told you what to do, and it felt like they were looking over your shoulder the whole time you did it. Micromanaged leaders don’t inspire those they lead.

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If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve undoubtedly had a customer who gave you the same experience.

They hired you because you’re a leader at what you do, but they tried to micromanage and rush you as you fulfilled the work. You felt triggered by the passive-aggressive emails attempting to rush you. You want to be a good leader, but the client treated you like an afterthought. They were not leading with empathy.

Empathic leaders do not micromanage people. They are emphatic and try to understand the best ways to interact with people. They are people first because they know that’s what leads to more production. Understanding people produce better results.

Strong empathic leaders:

  • Study the best ways to communicate with other humans
  • Don’t micromanage people or projects
  • Equip customers and teams with everything they need to succeed
  • Are diverse and inclusive in everything they do
  • Understand that people are more committed when they feel a leader cares
  • Have a genuine desire to see those they lead succeed in life
  • Are committed to learning how they can lead better

Leading with empathy makes good leaders better. Empathy allows leaders to understand that dictatorship leads to bitter and unproductive teams. Strong leaders use this to manage progress instead of forcing people to do things.

How to Develop Empathy as a Growth-Focused Leader

With an understanding of the importance of empathy in leadership, you’ll need to know how to be more empathic. Growth requires a willingness to learn about yourself and how you can grow as a person and leader.

An empathic leader is a constant learner. They value education and the personal growth that comes from learning more about themselves and leadership.

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1. Understand That Empathy Comes From Education

Empathy is a trait that develops when you watch videos on YouTube about leading with empathy. You learn more about empathy when you read leadership books that talk about the topic of empathy in leading people. You can cultivate empathy when you read articles (such as this one) about leading with empathy and understanding people.

Learning how to lead with empathy creates authenticity. People can sense what’s real and what feels manufactured. Not many people want to follow a leader that feels unauthentic. We’ve seen too many examples of unauthentic leadership.

Education of leadership and empathy teaches you how to understand people. It helps leaders see that mistakes happen and there are lessons in each circumstance. Empathic leaders don’t expect those they lead to be perfect—that’s unrealistic.

2. Have Conversations With Those You Lead

The only real way to understand your impact and effectiveness is to ask. You need an unfiltered view of how empathic you’re coming across.

You can create anonymous surveys for those you lead to fill out and provide honest feedback. You can have group meetings and talk about what’s going on. The point is to have conversations and see how you’re coming across as a leader.

When you receive the information, be open. Don’t take offense or put your guard up. Empathetic leaders are listeners and willing to make changes that help them be more decisive leaders.

Another thing to keep in mind is your body language. Most communication is nonverbal, and your body language could be giving off the wrong vibe. Empathetic leaders are conscious of what they say and how they’re saying it.

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Being fully present in what you say and do will help you communicate more effectively and give off the correct body language. Don’t interrupt when someone is talking to you. Let your body language communicate compassion and a desire to understand people.

Value the conversations and feedback you can receive as a leader. Learn and make adjustments. Empathic leaders are committed to growth. Don’t stay stuck in a position that pushes people away from wanting to follow you.

3. Put Aside Any Judgment

As much as we don’t want to admit it, human nature can be judgmental. We tend to judge a book by its cover before we’ve ever picked up the book. Judgment is the root of hate and the opposite of empathy.

Empathy and judgment don’t exist on the same plane. Too many leaders are seen as dictators because they lead from a place of judgment. It’s almost instant when someone feels judged. Judgment is repulsive and not a good leadership quality.

Being an inclusive and empathetic leader means you try to understand the other person’s position. You don’t form a judgment until you have all the facts, and even then, you try to understand the importance of context.

We are humans, and life is short. Learning how to understand the position that someone else is coming from helps you become a more empathetic person and a more decisive leader. You can’t know what someone is going through, and empathy can make all the difference.

The people you are leading will see your desire to better understand what they’re going through, which will lead to them wanting to follow you. Judgment might be a natural human emotion, but you can set it aside and embrace empathy.

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Lead With Compassion—Not Dictatorship

Empathetic leaders are passionate about leading by example, not a dictatorship. When people feel dictated to, they’re less likely to want to take action. Inspiration comes from a place of empathy, and empathic leaders motivate change. You can be a boss without making those you lead feel low.

The leaders that last and inspire people to follow them are individuals that are committed to their personal growth. They understand that to be a better leader, they have to be a better human.

Empathic leaders devote time and energy to becoming the best version of themselves in every area of their life. Personal development work helps leaders become more compassionate and empathetic.

Invest time in your own growth so that you can lead from a place of abundance. As you understand the need to cultivate awareness, you’ll see where you have not been empathic. You’ll then make changes and adjust—all of this creates stronger leaders.

Final Thoughts

Life offers many different perspectives. It’s essential for leaders to understand that how we feel about the world isn’t the only way or perspective.

Each of us experiences life differently. We don’t know what someone else has gone through or what they’re currently experiencing. We don’t know what’s shaped the way somebody does something. Empathetic leaders try to understand all points of view. Leadership isn’t just our way or the highway.

A good leader is a complete leader. Empathetic leaders measure all the factors of every circumstance. They are slow to speak and thoughtful in the actions they take. Good leaders understand the consequences of not being empathetic.

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Leading with empathy is a skill that you can and should learn as a leader. It may not be where you are right now in your leadership journey, but if you commit to learning to be more understanding, it will ultimately help you lead.

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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Kimanzi Constable

Author of "Are You Living or Existing?" Writer who helps people live a one-percent life.

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