Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. – Oprah Winfrey
Conscious leadership involves skills that, until fairly recently, were not on the radar for most companies. Now that many businesses are waking up to the importance of a more sympathetic and, dare I say it, human style of leadership in their leaders and decision-makers, emotional intelligence now has a much higher status.
Emotional intelligence is not only key if you are aiming to have a happier workforce, but more emotionally connected leaders have also been seen to cultivate more success for businesses. One of the biggest emotional skills that are now being sought after, is empathy. Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
This skill, for a long time, has been overlooked in the past. This is slightly strange, as the ability to communicate with people, and to understand their emotions, needs and wants seems vital to making a team of people run coherently and consciously. Empathy at the top also sets an example for empathy throughout a company, which results in a kinder, more considerate, and therefore more communicative and productive operation.
Here are a few thoughts on how to cultivate leadership with empathy as one of its defining pillars.
1. Make A Habit of Wearing Other People’s Shoes
In big companies especially, employees can become faceless numbers to those in charge. Putting yourself in the shoes of employees is much easier in smaller businesses, as you tend to know the individuals better. This is one of the reasons workers can become sceptical about their leadership if a company expands quickly, as the people at the top seem to be operating at a level that doesn’t really consider their needs as they used to.
Still, whatever the size of your company, and however many people you look after, it is never a bad idea to remind yourself to walk a mile in other people’s shoes from time to time. Each time you make a big decision, really take a moment to consider how it impacts the people it affects. If you consider this, there may be changes you can make. However, if it can’t be changed, it is still important that you communicate to those affected that you understand its impact and why it had to be made. You can then also have a dialogue with them about how to move forward in a way that benefits everybody.
2. Get to Know Your Workers
Get to know your workers. Pay attention to them. how do they work? Where do they excel? What circumstances might hinder or trigger them? What is their home life like?
As questions about them. Talk to them. Get to know them. The more you know about somebody, and the more you take a genuine interest in them, the better you will be able to communicate with them and understand where they are coming from when problems arise.
3. Look For Signs of Burnout
Burnout happens to us when we don’t see the overwhelm burying us. We reach burnout because things have already gone too far. Therefore, one of the most empathetic things you can do as a leader is to always be on the lookout for burnout in your team. Burnout isn’t good for anyone, and the earlier it is caught, the less the damage is for both you and the person in question.
To tie into the last point about knowing your workers… if you know people’s habits and situations, you will be in a much better position to see burnout coming.
4. Be Willing to Help with Personal Issues
As the years creep on, especially with the rise of home working, work-life and home-life are melting into each other in a way never seen before. As a conscious leader with empathy, you need to understand that the people that work for you have lives outside of the organisation and that their satisfaction with those lives will have an effect on how they perform and feel at work. Therefore, it is wise to make yourself available to help with any personal issues that may arise on your team.
5. Make It Known That Empathy is Important to Your Organisation
Place a premium on empathy in your workplace. You do this by demonstrating it, talking about it, and directly encouraging it. There is no need to be subtle about willing your employees or colleagues to be kinder and more empathetic to one another. Tell them. Indeed, teach them. There are now many training options available to businesses on how to be more mindful and conscious workers. Invest in this idea, as it benefits both the business’s commercial success and the happiness and wellbeing of everybody who works for it.
By Chris Thomson
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