Empathy is the ability to relate to what another person is going through. It involves feeling compassion and figuratively placing yourself in their situation. Being empathetic allows you to connect with someone on a deeper level than just “feeling bad” for them. In today’s climate, being in a leadership position makes having the ability to be empathetic more necessary than ever before.
Sympathy Versus Empathy
Being a genuinely empathetic leader requires certain abilities, the most important of which is exhibiting a deep level of genuine compassion and understanding. Paying lip service and taking part in superficial conversations have no place here. The difference between being sympathetic to someone’s plight and being empathetic is based on perspective: being sympathetic involves looking at another person’s circumstances from your perspective and with your own opinions. Being empathetic involves stepping outside of yourself and looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective, as in the saying, “stepping into someone else’s shoes.”
Empathy and Leadership
An empathetic leader can mean all the difference between success and failure in any setting. In the business world, it can mean the growth or destruction of a company. Anyone who has ever been in a leadership position knows that the motivation of a team of workers is directly related to job performance. Employees want to feel that they are more than just cogs in a wheel. They want to be seen and acknowledged as human beings, especially those in management positions.
A good leader who wants to be seen as genuinely empathetic will take the time to connect with workers, one-on-one and individually, on a regular basis. Chatting about both any work-related issues and any issues in their lives outside of the workplace lets employees know that they are seen as more than just workers. It creates a sense of camaraderie and lets them know that someone knows and cares about what they are going through.
Our world has begun to experience situations that most people have never dealt with before in recent years. There are unprecedented levels of stress, loss, worry, and uncertainty. Empathetic leadership is essential if society is going to recover. It is a type of leadership that will exponentially improve the future by connecting people in a more personal, more human way. Showing genuine empathy and care for those who are an essential part of your company, organization, etc., is a healthy and healing tool that will benefit the leader and the team they oversee.