Why is empathy identified as one of the most important leadership skills of the 21st century? According to scientific research, empathy is much more than just being “nice.” It is generally defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It’s putting you in the other person’s shoes or seeing things through their eyes.

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey

In one of my favorite books written by Daniel Goleman, author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, Daniel discussed empathy in the different leadership styles as:

Visionary – of all the EI competencies… empathy matters most to visionary leadership.

Coaching – empathy means leaders listen first before reacting or giving feedback.

Affiliative – they focus on the emotional needs of employees even over work goals. This focus makes empathy – another fundamental competence… empathy allows a leader to keep people happy by caring for the whole – not just the work tasks…

Democratic – EI competence of empathy also plays a role in democratic leadership, especially when the group is strongly diverse.

Pacesetting – the absence of empathy… means such leaders can blithely focus on accomplishing tasks while remaining oblivious to the rising distress in those who perform them.

“In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.” – Daniel Goleman

What situations have you faced in relationships where you have felt you were not being heard? Or have you ever felt that your feelings didn’t matter? On the other hand, have you ever worked with someone who gave you or members on your team the freedom to express emotions towards a project so everyone could genuinely believe in the vision your leader has with values you all can support?

“Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.” – Neil Gaiman

Imagine what a powerful driving potential you have for your organization when emotionally intelligent teams collaborate with empathy interdepartmentally creating a healthy emotional environment for the entire organization. It’s important to note that having empathy isn’t about adopting others emotions, or just trying to please everyone. It does mean taking feelings into consideration… in order to make intelligent decisions that create resonance. Empathy is also the key to retaining good talent.

A first step toward leading with empathy begins with “getting over yourself” and seeking to learn how others see things. Focusing on others rather than just your own needs and wants will help you as a leader establish a culture of collaboration bringing out the best talents your team has to offer.

“What’s important now are the characteristics of the brain’s right hemisphere: artistry, empathy, inventiveness, big-picture thinking. These skills have become first among equals in a whole range of business fields.” – Daniel H. Pink

For more information on improving your Emotional Intelligence and incorporating empathy into your team’s culture, contact us today. We would be delighted to help you find the best solution for your organization.