Empathy: An Unexpected Leadership Superpower

During this unprecedented time, business owners and corporate leaders must understand how to lead with empathy in order to balance the needs of the business with the needs of their employees. Those who tend to manage, vs. lead, will focus on tangibles; checking off boxes and slowing the financial hemorrhaging. Those things, of course, are critically important. True leaders who employ an unexpected leadership superpower –  empathy – will understand the nuances of the intangibles that help people rise above the turmoil of the crisis. 

Stop and Listen. Your Employees are Human.

An exceptional leader will take extra effort to practice empathy with employees, peers, and strategic partners. Put yourself in other people’s shoes before making decisions. Use that perspective to determine what you say and how you say it. Taking a moment to think about other people’s circumstances, feelings, and struggles will help you strike the right tone, even if you have to deliver bad news. It can make the difference in whether your people feel like a human being you care about or a number on a spreadsheet.

If you are honest about how you are feeling (see superpower #2 Introspection) then those around you will be honest with you. You can then work together to use those uncertainties to drive better teamwork and collaboration. Ask people how they are doing and make it clear you are open to hearing that they are scared, frustrated, angry. By naming what we are experiencing we can move from a “hair on fire”, flight or fight amygdala hijack to a more logic-centered part of the brain. It will ground people and enable them to tap into critical thinking skills. In addition, by signaling that you care about what others are going through you will inspire loyalty. People will trust that they can be candid and open with you. This gives you clarity and ensures that you are getting the full picture and not operating with blind spots. 

The Difference Between Leading and Managing

I am finding that the leaders who are most tuned in to themselves and their team are able to keep people motivated and engaged to achieve a better organizational outcome. “When people feel heard, they will move mountains for you.”  These are the kind of organizations you will see flourish during tough times, as they come up with creative solutions and focus unwaveringly on their customers. These results are why empathy is such an effective leadership superpower.

Be empathetic and watch your team’s morale surge and productivity rise. An empathetic leader is one their people will walk on hot coals for. They will thank you and so will your business!

Next up, employing balanced communications and Kind Excellence to address difficult conversations – Superpower #4