3 Ways Empathy Can Make You an Exceptional Leader
There are many comparisons between whether someone is a leader or a boss. But if I were to choose one main quality that really splits the two, it would be empathy. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The difference is really like night and day. While bosses may see their subordinates as disposable labor, Leaders see them as individual people, each involved in their own life stories. Let’s look at how empathy can affect your relationship with your people.
When you start seeing your juniors as individuals, you start to gain a respect for them as you realize that they have been through life’s struggles just as much as you have. Maybe they’ve been severely in debt, perhaps a rough childhood, or even lost a loved one. These aren’t necessarily things that you would want to ask them about, but you should at least understand and recognize that everyone has a unique background that makes them them.
In return, your employees will notice the effort that you’re making to connect with them and perhaps reciprocate the respect. Now, this isn’t true for all employees – there are some who would rather just work and work and work for the paycheck rather than get friendly with their manager. That’s fine – let them do their thing. But people want to gain respect for the work that they do, so make sure you give that to them. After you’ve established mutual respect, then comes…
With respect comes trust, which means that your people will trust you with what they have to say. They always have feedback for the way things are going, but most of the time they’ll only share it with you if they feel that you will actually do something about it. This can range from “the vending machine is broken” to criticisms of the overall system of operations.
On the other hand, your employees will also be more willing to listen to your requests. Trust typically comes mutually and they will understand that you have their best interests in mind (you do, don’t you?). This leads us into the third point.
As a leader in an organization, you must have instilled in yourself the values, mission, and vision of the organization. But your people may not necessarily see it, or even care. This is where inspiration comes into play.
Thanks to the respect and trust garnered by your empathy towards your people, the vertical gap becomes shorter and you begin to understand each other more. Simon Sinek, the author of Leaders Eat Last (an incredible book about inspirational leadership, by the way), says that leadership is about empowering your people to do what they think is beyond possible. According to Sinek, an exceptional leader will “prioritize the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the well-being of one another and the organization.” You see eye to eye and are willing to do what it takes to help and inspire each other get to the top, together. But this is only possible after showing your employees that you respect and trust them.
Feelings can sometimes get in the way of work… but other times, they can do incredible things for your people, for you, and for the organization. Give it a try.
For more on empowerment, click here to read about Chipotle’s leadership philosophy from the perspective of a former crew member (that’s me!).
Written by: Juan Juy