Empathetic Leadership: the most important leadership skill

Lucia Margan

8 minutes read

Empathetic leadership is now considered one of the most important skills for leaders in the modern workplace and Steve Jobs can explain why. 

Steve Jobs was always an outstanding entrepreneur, and an incredibly creative person. But he didn’t have the best people-skills. In fact, he was quite terrible at giving directions and motivating his employees. So much so, that it got him fired from Apple in 1985. Yes, Steve Jobs was mainly fired due to his lack of empathy and inability to connect with his team. 

However, he took the 12-year hiatus to work on his leadership skills and when he returned to Apple he did so with a new set of leadership skills, including empathy, which played a crucial role in turning the company into the global giant it is today.

In this blog post, we will explore the concept of empathetic leadership, its importance in today’s workplace, and provide practical tips on how to practice empathy in leadership at work.

What is empathetic leadership? 

Empathetic leadership is one of the seven styles of leadership. This particular style focuses on understanding and sharing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of others. It involves active listening, compassion, and genuine care for the well-being of team members. To sum it up, they have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Empathy in leadership (and in particular for distributed teams) is one of those things that, when it’s present, it’s often overlooked or underappreciated, but when it’s absent, it’s very detrimental to the workforce. Lack of empathy from managers can lead to numerous negative consequences, including lower employee morale, reduced productivity, and a less inclusive work environment. 

By fostering empathetic leadership, organizations can create a more supportive and engaged workplace that ultimately leads to better performance and success.

Why is empathetic leadership important in today’s workplace?

Empathetic leadership is essential in the modern workplace for several reasons. A study by Catalyst surveyed nearly 900 US employees working across industries to understand the effects of empathic leadership (in senior leaders and direct managers) on their experiences at work—especially in times of crisis. Employees with highly empathic senior leaders report higher levels of creativity (61%) and engagement (76%) than those with less empathic senior leaders (13% and 32%, respectively).

When employees feel heard and understood, they are more likely to trust their leaders, collaborate effectively, and be motivated to contribute their best efforts. The importance of empathy in leadership communication cannot be overstated, as it helps to build a positive workplace culture, improve decision-making, and foster greater diversity and inclusion.

3 tips to practice empathy in leadership at work

Leaders don’t need to be ruthless to give proper feedback, and they certainly don’t need to put a wall between themselves and their employees in order to earn their respect. Good leaders know that assertive communication and positive feedback can get them much farther. 

But how can we turn into empathetic leaders?

The key is to lead with the heart and not with the head. Keep that close to mind, and you will be off to a great start. Aside from that, here are three easy tips that you can start practicing right now to become a better leader for your team:

  1. Active listening: Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the speaker, avoiding interruptions, and reflecting back what you’ve heard to ensure understanding. This helps build trust and allows you to gain valuable insights into the needs and concerns of your team members.
  1. Develop cognitive empathy: Cognitive empathy refers to the ability to understand another person’s perspective. Challenge yourself to see situations from multiple viewpoints, and encourage open communication and feedback within your team to foster a more inclusive environment.
  1. Show genuine care and support: Create a safe space for your team members to express their emotions and concerns without fear of judgment. Offer support and encouragement, and be willing to adapt your leadership style to meet the unique needs of each individual.

Related: 3 Abilities of the Leader of a Remote Team and the Courses we Recommend for Their Development

Empathetic leaders are the best leaders

Empathetic leadership has become a crucial skill for business owners and HR managers in today’s workplace. By practicing empathy in leadership, understanding the importance of empathy, and fostering empathy at the workplace, leaders can create a more inclusive, engaged, and innovative work environment. 

As demonstrated by Steve Jobs’ transformation, embracing empathetic leadership can lead to personal growth and the success of your organization.

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Written by Lucia Margan

I’m Lucia Margan, a Digital Marketer specialized in SEO Content Writing, Copywriting and UX Writing with more than 7 years of experience in the field. I am passionate about producing high-value content that creates a true impact and organic growth.

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