Empathy in leadership. It’s one of the most important – yet often overlooked – traits of a successful leader. For some managers, empathy comes naturally. For others, it is a leadership skill that needs more practice. And, since it is not a fixed trait, we can learn, develop and grow our empathy just like other skills and attributes.
Here are some practical suggestions and tips to help you work on empathy in leadership:
Don’t confuse empathy with sympathy
It’s common to get these two mixed-up. Here’s the difference, courtesy of Dictionary.com: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. It’s also important to note that empathy doesn’t mean you agree with everyone and everything. Rather, you “thoughtfully consider employees feelings – along with other factors – in the process of making intelligent decisions,” as author and science journalist Daniel Goleman explains in his What Makes a Leader? article with Harvard Business Review.
Always make time to connect with others
Most of us spend more time at work than any other place. That’s probably one of the reasons why building good working relationships with people at all levels is the No. 1 management skill leaders need today, according to a global survey of over 15,000 managers and professionals conducted by the co-authors of “Mind Tools for Managers: 100 Ways to Be a Better Boss.”
Successful leaders build relationships at work by being visible, keeping their door open, and making time to connect with others. They remember names, ask questions, get to know people beyond the workplace, and actively listen during conversations. They also know how important it is to make others feel important and show sincere appreciation for their hard work and efforts.
You can start connecting with others today just by getting out of your office, going to team members where they work, and simply asking how they are doing. And, the next time you need to kick-off a project or have a team meeting, make it a point to ask for opinions and suggestions, and include them in conversations and solutions.
Balance your speaking and listening skills
We all know someone who talks, and talks, and talks. What’s supposed to be a two-way conversation or team meeting is completely one-sided. It gets exhausting. There’s always going to be a time and place for leaders to own the floor. But, you do not want to be known around the office as someone who always dominates conversations.
Listening is one of the most critical skills that demonstrates the importance of empathy in leadership. The quality of your listening impacts the quality of your relationships at work, your influence on the team, and ultimately, the quality of their work, productivity, and performance.
Source: SurePeople, The Importance of Empathy in Leadership