We live in complicated times and empathy is highly needed. Not only international relations are being tested, but also the economic resilience of companies and the emotional resilience of employees. More and more people are feeling the stress of an oversizing of danger.
Interpersonal relationships are tested by feelings that find a way to express themselves, including at work. Different opinions can degenerate into conflicts between colleagues, and conflicts sabotage team cohesion and productivity.
The role of leaders becomes even more important today as they can convey confidence, predictability, balance, openness, understanding the emotions associated with the situation of each employee.
In this turbulent context there is a reassuring remedy, empathy.
The role of the leader as a model and source of empathy
Being a leader is a daily test. This assumed role comes with sometimes difficult to satisfy requirements that put you face to face with your own limits. One of them should not to be the ability to be empathetic and compassionate towards the people you coordinate.
Why is empathy the limit that some leaders have? Because it is a component of the being little present in the development of the school. Math, physics, chemistry, history matter more.
Surely, perhaps theoretically, we have been taught that empathy means putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes and seeing the world from his or her perspective. But really strong forms of empathy do not begin or stop here. They reach into all areas of our lives and work.
Unfortunately, there are some leaders who dismiss empathy as a form of weakness in workplace relationships. But empathy helps us to feel safe and secure, connected to others, and empowered to manage conflicts with availability and inclusion.
The work of the leader is based on intuition and empathy
Good leaders not only solve problems as they arise, but are actively looking for ways to facilitate people’s performance.
This smoothing of the road and the removal of obstacles requires empathy. It takes the ability to understand the “wiring” of the human mind, the needs and pace of people, and to respond accordingly.
This kind of proactivity makes leaders do their ”homework” so they can understand the people they coordinate with their challenges and strengths.
It can also involve corrective proposals for top management tasks and what is needed for the team to perform. As difficult as these things may be, the empathy shown and offered is the kind of investment in colleagues that will be rewarded for their full involvement.
Two types of empathy and their specificity
Affective empathy is empathy that is based on emotion. When someone suffers with you or feels angry, it is emotional empathy at work. At the same time, there is a facet of empathy that balances emotion with reason. Cognitive empathy. It is about a certain coefficient of rational understanding of the other’s perspective. It does not require emotion on our part, but it does require understanding and a desire to understand.
People can have high or low levels of both emotional and cognitive empathy, and there are no wrong ways to feel empathy.
However, it has been found that the best leaders are those with high cognitive and low emotional levels, as this allows them to engage empathetically with employees and their feelings and frustrations, without being drawn into their emotional struggle.
The best leaders build security and cultivate empathy. They make sure that the people on the team feel safe, that everyone feels that they are seen and appreciated for their contribution to the team’s results.
Without psychological security, employees enter into confrontation of survival, leave the company or put under the sign of temporary projects, solutions, people, eventually failing.
In order to turn people’s potential into results, the leader must encourage innovation, cooperation and train the empathy: theirs and that of their managers.
The inclusion of empathy in leadership is a conscious choice of leaders who are with the people in the company, especially at this time when our world is being tested.