Leadership is made up of a number of traits and habits. You’ve heard them all before… 

We’re told leaders are visionary, courageous, and creative. 

They have great communication skills and are approachable. 

Leaders are honest with and encouraging of everyone. 

They must be self-motivated and able to hold themselves accountable.  

And the list of respectable qualities goes on.

The work world loves to tell you about all the things you must be if you want to lead and lead well. And while all the previously named qualities contribute to what makes a great leader, there’s one quality you can’t be a great leader without: empathy. 

The “What”

According to Simon Sinek, “Empathy is being concerned about the human being, not just their output.” Practicing empathy means genuinely caring about someone else, putting yourself in their shoes, and gaining a deeper level of understanding for their well-being. 

To some, empathy may not seem like it has a prevalent role in the workplace. Perhaps empathy feels too personal to bring to a place of responsibilities, performance, etc. 

But empathy actually has the ability to transform not only culture, but the productivity and output of individuals and companies. With empathy, our workplaces can be places of comfort and support, on top of high achievement. 

The “Why”

In 2016, empathy was named by Development Dimensions International as the biggest senior leadership skill needed today, citing that it increases by 40% a leader’s ability to perform, coach, engage, plan, and make decisions.

The value of empathy in our workplaces is growing in popularity. Companies are recognizing the need for it and taking steps to teach the skill and instill it into their workforces. According to the Wall Street Journal, 20% of U.S. employers now include empathy training in their management development programs, which is significantly more than 10 years ago, and is expected to double in the next 10 years. 

Workers within every level of a company’s hierarchy are able to benefit from and recognize the importance of empathy. Business Solver says that 91% of CEOs believe empathy and financial performance are directly linked, and 93% of employees are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. 

Most of all, empathy allows leaders to know if they’re truly connecting with the people they’re trying to reach. An article by Forbes discusses the many benefits of empathy, “Without empathy, you can’t build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Empathy is essential in negotiations and sales: it allows you to know your target’s desires and what risks they are or aren’t willing to take.”

As a leader, empathy can be your superpower. Empathy can be your ticket to a deeper understanding of your teammates, partners, clients, and competitors. Corporate culture needs empathy to unlock a whole new level of our personal and professional potential. For tips on how to exercise empathy in the workplace, keep an eye out for next week’s article or take a look at how Knowted’s products and services can help you reach your goals.

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