Until recently, hierarchical management models reigned supreme in workplaces, with decisions made by those at the highest levels and delegated to so-called executive employees. Thus, full control was exercised over the actions of those at lower levels. Nowadays, more and more companies are promoting a flexible management model, which emphasizes treating employees as partners and the organization’s most important resource, rather than just a means to achieve set goals. The characteristic elements of such a management style are openness to initiative, increasing employee involvement and promoting the principle of dialogue and cooperation in the organization. Empathic leadership helps to implement such elements. Below we’ll explain how such an attitude manifests and why it excels in today’s workplaces.

Empathic leadership – what does it consist of?

Increasingly, the management recognizes their employees as the key resource of a company that enables achieving its business, image or other goals. However, for that to happen leaders must provide their workforce with the right conditions for doing the job – a sense of support, an attitude of understanding and motivation to carry out activities. Empathic leadership in the workplace thus relies on the ability of superiors to feel empathy for the needs, feelings or perspectives of their team members. Still, such an attitude goes a step further – for it requires not only compassion but also responding to the indicated needs in a way that translates into satisfaction and job satisfaction.

The effects of empathetic leadership

The described leadership attitude allows for building an organizational culture based on trust, open communication and partnership, which facilitates cooperation in the team and, consequently, supports the achievement of set business goals. The morale of employees under such a leader is high (they feel understood and appreciated), which is visible in their commitment to their duties and the results they achieve daily. What’s more, emotional support and understanding on the part of the employer make employee loyalty increase, i.e., job retention increases, which is a positive outcome for any company. Such an attitude will also not go unnoticed in ongoing employer branding activities.

How to become an empathetic leader?

Wondering what you can do to gain a reputation among your colleagues as an empathetic leader? You can develop such an effect in the long term by applying certain management practices, among which we will mention as the most important:

  1. Ensuring proper communication

    Active listening and action are the foundation of empathetic leadership. The willingness to listen and understand the needs of employees, as well as to adapt your decisions and actions to the needs you discover, makes employees feel that their opinion counts. For this to happen, however, you need to ensure proper communication within the team – ask open-ended questions that allow the employee to express his or her opinion, allow showing initiative, organize brainstorming sessions and bring all ideas together. If you disagree with something, also remember to adequately argue your opinion and provide comprehensible and clear feedback to the employee, and not just in the form of an authoritarian decision you have made.

  2. Helping with difficult situations

    As a good leader, you are surely well aware that employees often face all sorts of difficulties – both in the professional and personal areas. Although you should keep private and company affairs separate, this is not always possible. When you feel someone’s struggling, you should show an attitude of interest and understanding, even helping out if necessary. Perhaps the solution you propose (such as flexible hours or place of work) will help solve the problem that has arisen, and you will gain as a supervisor – not only in the eyes of one member of your team but also in the eyes of others familiar with the situation.

  3. Paying attention to employee behavior

    A member of your team has had a worse week? Do you see less commitment to the work? Do you feel that something is clearly “not right”? Of course, any employee may feel mentally or physically worse for a period, which will undoubtedly affect the tasks but in some cases, the signs that appear are heralding job burnout or another more serious problem. As an empathetic leader, you need to know exactly what the mild and more serious signs of such a condition are and react before the issue develops. An employee in a difficult situation should feel your support.

Empathic Leadership

Empathic leadership – summary

Empathic leadership is currently one of the most important HR trends you’ll encounter in the workplace. It combines perfectly with equally popular empowerment (increasing the ability to make decisions and show initiative) and a focus on nurturing the employee experience. It undoubtedly translates into positive results in the area of performance, but it requires leaders to be properly trained in this area. After all, you can’t become an empathetic leader without effort – you need to know how to communicate with an employee, respond to suggestions or act in difficult situations. Take care to develop the right practices in your organization or team, and you will surely see satisfactory results from changes in organizational culture.

Read also: Top 4 digital workplace trends to watch in 2023

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Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.