Empathy, is it currently the most important leadership Trait?

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Empathy, how important is it for today’s leaders? Now that businesses are re-opening and many who have been on furlough are beginning to return to working life, is empathy in our leaders currently the most important trait?

Definition of Empathy

We can define “Empathy” as the capacity to understand and or share the feelings of another? We can take this one step further and say, the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position, standing in their shoes or seeing the environment through their eyes.

However, we wish to describe empathy, now that more of our teams are returning to work, how we flex our approach to each individual will define the workplace atmosphere and therefore the productivity of our teams.

There will be a mixture of challenges and circumstances that we will have to resolve. With the integration of our team, some who have been working these past 3 months and those who have been on furlough. There are different changes that we must manage. New social distancing and hygienic processes. The possibilities of restructuring the team; which is why it is so important to understand during these situations, conflict and dissatisfaction can grow from lack of good personal communication.

Empathy is the glue

We need a greater connection with our team through these changing and difficult times. If, as a leader, we are capable of understanding our colleague’s situation through their eyes, we have a chance to engage in a meaningful and productive conversation. A conversation where we give our full attention, where we hear their words and relate to their feelings. In a non-judgmental way, we can demonstrate we understand them. When we have this connection, this transparency, we have an opportunity to connect and open up their thinking to change.

We are building trust, respect in the relationship with our colleagues and therefore we can reduce misunderstanding and confusion.

If Empathy is currently the most important leadership trait, can we develop our empathy? I believe we can. It takes courage if it is not natural for you, and you may have to venture out of your comfort zone. Be open and engage in one-to-ones, create a safe environment for you to be interested and curious about your team’s current concerns and worries. Be prepared to make mistakes

Here is my quick guide:

Be more self-aware; understand your own reactions to different situations and how you initially respond – don’t interrupt. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work, alter your approach and response to the individual’s personality traits in front of you.

Increase your own Curiosity in others, slow down, and listen. Really listen and as\k questions to fully understand their current situation and thinking.

Ask for Feedback: be interested in finding out what others think about your listening capabilities, and how you can best support them during this time.

Practice: it is the only way we will improve, and don’t worry about making mistakes, we all do, learn from them, adjust your approach and delivery, then go again.

When we work for a leader who has connected with us, who is interested in us, we are likely to put in more discretionary effort and perform at a higher level. We share our thinking in a more open and productive way, we are easier to manage and therefore we enjoy the time spent at work.

As a leader, would you not want to establish this culture in your team, if so, what is getting in the way?

Feel free to contact me if you would like more information on developing your skills to increase team performance.

Paul Canning



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