Why We Need More Empathetic Leaders

April 13, 2017 0 Comments
Why We Need More Empathetic Leaders


Leadership is getting a facelift.

It’s becoming less about rank, authority and being in charge and more about how leaders can support and empower their employees to achieve.

Gone are the days where intimidation and “tough love” are the go-to avenues for creating a team of obedient workers. Leaders are seeing the advantages of leading with an empathetic and compassionate demeanor to promote trust, interpersonal bonds and unwavering loyalty.

The truth is, leaders are nothing without their teams and demonstrating this value to employees is proving to reap greater rewards.

To put empathetic leadership into practice, here are a few useful guidelines:

Let people talk.

Plain and simple — don’t interrupt. Let people have their piece, to express their concerns, pain points, ideas or fears. You may be ready to jump in with some advice or tidbit of knowledge, but it’s important to hold your peace and know when it’s your time to talk. Which leads us into point #2…

Be an active listener.

Active listening is something you’ve probably not given a great deal of thought to. In fact, our natural reaction is to be a passive listener. That is, we hear the words others are saying, we nod along and make sounds of acknowledgement, but we’re not truly listening. Active listening means not only paying attention, but also supplying verbal and nonverbal body cues to express your investment in the conversation. Ask thoughtful, curious questions to show you are really listening, then be prepared for the answers.

Live by the “93 percent rule.”

The 93% rule acknowledges only 7% of communication is verbal. The remaining 93% is comprised of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and so on. Recognize how others are communicating nonverbally and notice how you are coming across. Consult a trusted confidant or peer to assess your natural body language and areas where you might improve.

Use people’s names — and smile.

The difference between “Good job” and “Good job, John” is immense. People respond well to hearing their own name, particularly in combination with praise or positive affirmation. It’s also useful to remember the names of spouses and children, so you can converse and engage more meaningfully. Finally, a smile is a small gesture, which can change the entire course of an interaction or someone’s day.

Be encouraging.

Encouragement can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. It could be as simple as a reaffirming nod when an employee supplies a great idea in a team meeting, or offering specific advice and words of encouragement when an employee is struggling. Pay close attention to the “quiet ones” and encourage them to showcase their skills or contribute more.

Offer genuine praise.

Verbal praise is shown to hold greater value in the long term than financial incentive. When offering a compliment or praise, make it specific to the employee. For example, “You are highly valuable to our team because…” or mention a specific accomplishment and the value it had to the team. Avoid generic statements that could generally be applied to anyone, anytime.

Remember these 6 tips for empathetic leadership:


  • Let people talk.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Focus on body language.
  • Personalize your message.
  • Offer encouragement.
  • Give genuine praise.


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