We, as leaders, are faced with an undeniably troubling task: how to we move forward and navigate profitable futures, while maintaining morale and integrity during these VUCA times. No one has the answer, but I believe we can start by seeking new models of business and question the very methods of our leadership.
Think of the images and words that come to mind when you think of a leader. Perhaps you thought of a person that is powerful, outspoken, and maybe even male. But what if I told you that these attributes may not actually be the best for a successful leader and business.
A recent study by Catalyst shows that when a leader displays empathy their employees show more innovation, engagement, and a feeling of inclusion. They surveyed US employees in the wake of the Great Resignation, as burnout among employees and turnover were at an all time high, emphasizing the importance of empathy especially in times of crisis.
“Our current research shows that cultivating empathic leadership is an effective strategy to respond to crisis with the heart and authenticity that many employees crave—and boost productivity.”
So what does empathic leadership look like? It’s connecting to your employees and colleagues by demonstrating that you may not “know” their experience, but you want to understand their thoughts and perspective, while showing them that you care and are present with them. A great relationship with your employees is the foundation for inclusivity and is the foundation of a successful business.
Catalyst outlined different types of empathy and ways to embody them: “cognitive empathy, or engaging with employees to understand their thoughts, emotions, and perspectives; affective empathy, or sharing in or showing similarity to employees’ emotional states, and behavioral empathy, or actions that communicate and demonstrate a sense of empathy for employees.”
As we are pushing forward into this era of uncertainty, leaders must utilize a more compassionate and empathic approach.
By demonstrating empathy in your leadership, you will only strengthen the resolve of your employees and colleagues. You will inspire creativity, cultivate an engagement, and above all, provide solace in a VUCA world.
But let’s go deeper. The root of empathy is being immersed in the present and understanding everything that brought you and the people around you here. Presence is essential in leadership and beyond.
Be a present leader, and also an empathic one.