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Empathetic Leadership – What is it and How Does it Benefit You?

Wednesday, January 11, 2023 - Prophit Co.

Empathy, defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is not just a trait, but also a skill that can be developed at any time in any person. Empathic processes are a natural part of how we all think, an innately human trait rooted in the composition of our brains. At the same time, empathy is something that we can cultivate and grow within ourselves through understanding and reinforcement like any other learned skill. Even further, empathy is not just a positive trait and skill – it’s also an invaluable tool at the disposal of all leaders that can transform people, teams, and organizations for the better.

So, what is at the root of empathetic leadership? What distinguishes an empathetic leader from any other? An empathetic leader has willingness and ability to understand the challenges, needs, emotions, and thoughts of others. Within the context of this understanding, they will position themselves as a positive change agent, making a genuine effort improve others’ experiences in a flexible and adaptable manner. Most commonly, empathetic leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, allowing them to understand and reflect on the emotions of others while keeping their own emotions in check.

World renowned speaker, author, and researcher Brené Brown also shows us that empathetic leadership requires a leader to be vulnerable with their teams. Leaders practice healthy vulnerability by seeking personal connections, being open and transparent, and expressing their genuine self with their teams. Empathy in leadership starts with vulnerability – the key to unlocking the ability to comprehensively understand others.

Famous author, speaker, and coach Tony Robbins explains the undeniable utility behind empathetic leadership. Empathetic leaders build trust, strengthen their teams, and cultivate better decision making within their areas of responsibility. Through empathy, a leader is able to have a direct, positive impact on the emotions and performance of their reports. Tracy Brower, PhD shed light on a study conducted by Catalyst, which compared the abilities of employees who believed that they were under empathetic leadership against those that believed they were not. The finds were as follows:

  • 61% of employees under empathetic leadership reported an ability to be innovative, compared to just 13% of those not under empathetic leadership
  • 76% of employees with empathetic leaders reported that they were engaged with their work, compared to only 32% of other employees
  • Women are overwhelmingly more likely to remain with a company that respects and values their life circumstances, with 57% of white women and 62% of women of color stating that they would not be likely to leave their companies under such circumstances
  • 50% of employees under empathetic leadership felt that their workplace was inclusive, compared to only 17% of others
  • 86% of employees with empathetic leaders felt that had a manageable work-life balance, a 26% increase over employees not under empathetic leadership

The benefits brought on by empathetic leadership are meaningful and numerous for organizations. More importantly, evidence shows us that empathetic leadership is an irreplaceable difference maker for the lifeblood of any organization – its employees. This makes empathy one of the most important skills for today’s leaders to learn.

Rogers, Kristen. (2020). “Empathy is both a trait and a skill. Here’s how to strengthen it” [Article]. 24 June, 2020. CNN Health. https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/24/health/develop-empathy-skills-wellness/index.html [Accessed December 8, 2022]

“Empathetic Leadership” [Webpage]. Tony Robbins. https://www.tonyrobbins.com/what-is-leadership/empathetic-leadership-style/ [Accessed December 8, 2022]

Brower, Tracy. (2021). “Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research” [Article]. 19 September, 2021. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/tracybrower/2021/09/19/empathy-is-the-most-important-leadership-skill-according-to-research/?sh=2261159c3dc5 [Accessed December 8, 2022]


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