What is an empathetic leader?
An empathetic leader leads with a goal of supporting and empowering their employees to achieve. Empathetic leaders value compassion, prioritize trust and build strong interpersonal relationships.
The “traditional” image of leadership weighs heavily on authority, intimidation and rank; sometimes referred to as “tough love” to create obedient employees.
As leadership transforms, so do employee expectations, and this “traditional” model is becoming less and less common.
Employees are empowered with more choice and won’t settle for a leader who creates an unpleasant or hostile work environment just to earn a paycheck.
Empathetic leadership can take many forms. Consider five of the following ways you can invite more empathy into your leadership style and build stronger, higher-performing teams.
Simple enough, right? It can be incredibly hard just to listen, especially if you’re an extrovert who is used to giving your two cents.
As many leaders are extroverts, this can be a tough hurdle and one they may not even be aware of. Notice how when others speak, if you’re quick to jump in with a suggestion, story, interruption, correction, etc.
Practice sitting tight and letting others hold the space and knowing when it’s your time to talk.
Our natural inclination as listeners is to be passive. Think of all the conversations that filter through your brain as you’re in the supermarket, on a plane or even in the workplace.
Passive listening is when we hear the words or sounds around us, but don’t process their meaning; in other words, white noise. Active listening occurs when your full attention is on the other person, as you take cue from verbal and nonverbal cues to understand their message.
Active listeners ask thoughtful, curious questions and reply with appropriate body language. Next time you’re having a conversation, notice if you are passively listening, then readjust your focus to become an active listener.
People respond positively to hearing their name, especially in combination with praise. A simple “good job” is transformed by adding someone’s name — it becomes more personal and intentional.
When you’re complimenting someone, tell them why they’re receiving your praise, as a way to reinforce the behavior and show them you take notice.
Put this strategy into practice during your next performance reviews, by praising specific accomplishments and their outcomes.
Communication is said to be 93% non-verbal and 7% verbal. Whether those figures are spot on for every interaction is another story, but the sentiment remains true.
An incredibly important part of communication is nonverbal: body language, facial expressions and even posture. When your verbal and nonverbal communication do not align, it’s harder for people to perceive your message and there’s a greater chance of miscommunication.
Notice how your body language reacts to different situations and decide if there are areas where you can improve, such as stronger eye contact, a firmer handshake or smiling more often.
How people define what is encouraging varies from person to person. Empathetic leaders take time to get to know their employees and understand what motivates them.
Consider how a more outgoing employee can benefit from public praise during a team meeting, where a quieter employee would prefer a one-on-one setting.
Remember, encouragement shouldn’t be saved solely for achievement; it is just as important, if not more so when your team is struggling or facing a roadblock.
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