Why Empathy is THE SKILL Leaders Need to Succeed

As companies reinvent just about everything in their businesses now, from processes, procedures, work arrangements, benefits and more, employees representing the front line to the C-suite can be challenged to keep their emotions in check with so much change happening at once.
While it’s essential for everyone to manage their emotions at work, it’s even more important for leaders to demonstrate emotional self-control while being socially aware of what their employees, colleagues, customers and business partners are feeling.
Social Awareness, which is being able to recognize and understand the emotions of others, is one of the four core emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that help leaders excel.
Leaders who have high social awareness are more capable of being able to demonstrate empathy, which is a very important EQ strength.
Empathy is defined as, “the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.”
The global leadership development firm DDI ranks empathy as the number one leadership skill. DDI reported that leaders who master empathy perform more than 40% higher in coaching, engaging others and decision-making. (https://www.ddiworld.com/podcast/why-empathy-is-number-one-skill)
Leaders who demonstrate empathy show others that they want to listen deeply to accurately hear and understand their spoken words, as well as their unspoken thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
Such leaders genuinely care when they ask others how they’re doing because they want to know how to help them succeed.

Leaders who show empathy experience a positive impact on their own productivity and career opportunities.
Another study led by the Center for Creative Leadership involving 6,7331 leaders from 38 countries, revealed empathy is positively related to job performance. The study (https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/empathy-in-the-workplace-a-tool-for-effective-leadership) concluded managers who show more empathy toward direct reports were viewed as better performers by their bosses.
Leaders identified by their employers as high performers receive higher compensation and more opportunities to advance their careers.
Some people are born or nurtured to be more empathetic than others, but everyone can develop their ability to show empathy.
Here are 4 steps you can take to become a more empathetic leader:
1. Choose to think and act like someone who shows empathy. You may know someone, mentor or a friend, who demonstrates empathy with ease. Make notes as to how the person behaves in situations where empathy is needed. Model the person’s behaviors in ways that align with your personality and style. Ask the person to share any tips or strategies that were helpful in developing a high level of empathy.
2. Listen more than you talk. When someone is sharing information with you, whether it’s highly emotional or not, listen for what’s said and what’s not being said in the conversation. Look for congruency in the person’s words and nonverbal behaviors. If congruency is lacking, take time to inquire a bit more about how the person is really doing. Taking time to do this shows that you truly care about the person, which could create an opportunity for you to provide the optimal support someone needs.
3. Explore professional EQ training and resources at work. Some companies sponsor EQ programs (in person or via zoom) that include real-world conversations focused on empathy and other EQ skills. Companies will often have EQ training in other formats, such as videos or webinars where knowledge about empathy and how to show it are included. While you can increase your awareness about EQ from books, videos or webinars, look for EQ exercises that allow you to transfer what you learn to your real world. One book I recommend that has such exercises is Emotional intelligence 2.0 by Dr. Travis Bradberry.
4. Hire an EQ coach to develop your empathy skills. There are millions of leadership coaches in the world, but working with one that is trained in EQ will help fast-track your ability to develop empathy and other EQ skills.
Working one-on-one with an EQ coach will give you opportunities for experiential exercises that relate to your real world, where you get immediate feedback on how well you’re able to demonstrate empathy and other EQ skills.
Working with a coach includes being held accountable to do the work to advance your EQ. Knowing that you want to be more empathetic is not the same as doing what you need to do to transform over time into a more empathetic leader.
I’m certified to teach people how to develop a deeper level of empathy and all of the EQ competencies. I’ve worked with physicians, CEOs, high-tech managers, and people at all levels in all kinds of organizations how to advance their EQ in a short period of time.
Having a high EQ is a real mark of distinction and one that is evident in those considered to be outstanding leaders.
If you’d like to know more about how I help high achievers transform into extraordinary leaders, schedule a 15-minute call with me at https://go.oncehub.com/call-with-jennell-evans.
Together, we can figure out if I can help you in your leadership journey.
All the best,
Jennell Evans, MA, CMMI
Emotional Intelligence | Mindfulness | Remote Leadership
Advisor & Speaker
P.S. If you want to learn about EQ, download my free eBook, High EQ = Better You, for a succinct overview of EQ, why it matters, and what behaviors indicate you have it at www.jennellevans.com/#free-ebook