Role of Empathetic and Kind Leaders

“Empathy and understanding must precede advice.” – Zach Brittle

It would seem obvious that when one reaches a position of leadership, a person is expected to think and manage using their mind and not think with their heart. Leadership is expected and must be seen as practical, level-headed, tough and people for whom business results matter more than being seen as ‘soft and pliable’. However, various studies and research have revealed that given the large scale digitization and uncertain business environment brought about my new and fierce competition and also economic instability, the workplace now needs empathetic and kind leaders. Leaders that don’t need to use coercion and fear to get results – because the life of such results is short and uncertain. We have delved in detail on how anxiousness, stress, fear, friction and annoyance leads to a highly toxic work environment that soon spells doom for a company since employees begin to exit and as service levels drop, customers too begin to leave.

Empathetic and kind leaders will ensure that there is no culture of rudeness, bullying, discourtesy and friction and each person in the company is treated with respect. Each person – irrespective of status, level and position – and such a culture of politeness and support will be lead and demonstrated by the leaders. Everyone is fighting hard to stay relevant and engaging in the business world. However, what distinguishes a good company from a great one is a happy workplace, initiated and sustained by empathetic and kind leaders. This is what will make a company stand out from the crowd of the many companies, each trying to outdo the other through advanced technology and new strategies, rather than focusing on the human aspect.

Empathetic and kind leaders doesn’t only imply being nice – rather such leaders realize that every person in the organization and outside is worthy of respect, care, kindness and empathy. They also know and demonstrate that one can never go wrong by exhibiting these positive attributes and in fact being thoughtful and caring towards others ensures that people are willing to do more than required, thereby moving the company on the path of success much faster. Empathetic and kind leaders are not weak people – in fact, these qualities make them much stronger, resilient and steadfast than leaders that believe in using terror and negative tactics to ‘lead’ people. Kind leaders are looked up to, they are valued and those working in the company see the utility of these strong positive qualities and hence emulate them in their everyday life – both personal and professional. Employees that trust and cooperate with each other are more productive, efficient and creative – solid reasons for companies to become and remain successful.

Empathetic and kind leaders inculcate and sustain a culture where each person is able to view situations and concerns from another’s eyes. Each person in the company inculcates the habit of patience, active listening, appreciating the motives and viewpoints of others and many such positive attributes that promote a healthy and happy workplace. Empathetic and kind leaders create an atmosphere of trust, integrity and openness and first exhibit a clear understanding of their staff members before expecting such behaviour from them. This top down positive culture permeates the organization and make people speak well of their employers thereby enhancing the reputation of the company which further attracts better talent and also more customers.

Empathetic and kind leaders are also strong leaders. They use these attributes combined with their knowledge and experience and lead the company in the right direction. This does not mean that they always accept other people’s view or continually aim to please everyone or are swayed by praise and flattery – they are level-headed and make informed and intelligent decisions that are good for the company and its customers both in the short-term and long-term.  Empathy and kindness in leadership are processes that are both emotions and thoughts. It is only when such leaders have reasoned and are able to understand the value of using these will they actually make an attempt to actually care and be concerned about the welfare and happiness of those who work with them. For example – there was a friend who had this great boss. He refused to breathe down her back or constantly check on the time she came in or left and would always understand if she had a family emergency – something that most bosses did. The result was that she worked diligently and consistently remained one of the top performers and would always attribute part of her success to her boss. This is a small example of how trust, empathy and care can positively influence the staff members to do the right thing and be consistently productive even when ‘no one is watching’.

When companies hire they must look for staff that exhibit the qualities of empathy and kindness. Also empathetic and kind leaders will show the way by attending training and other programs that would further strengthen these qualities. Yes empathy and kindness can be taught and the more leaders there are that possess these qualities, the easier it would be for a company to have strong bonds between its employees and such people would act as catalysts for sustained growth and market reputation.  What are some of the ways by which leaders and employees can build empathy and kindness and does your company believe in the strength of these qualities?

Empathy and kindness in their very essence mean that a person is willing to listen to another without judgement. The listening is active and attention is paid to every small detail, bodily expressions, tone of voice and the emotions behind the words. When your aim is to actually listen, you would not interrupt the person speaking or shut your mind and heart off when you don’t agree with what is being said. Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard and empathetic and kind leaders will do this without trying to jump in to issue a directive or advice. They will let the person completely vent and not mix their own emotions and thoughts with what is being said. A sincere listening is only possible when a person believes that what another is saying is of vital importance to that person and one’s own emotions and views do not matter at the time. Empathetic and kind leaders would remember to make appropriate eye contact and speak to people using their name. If possible, they would also remember the names of the person’s spouse and children – such personal touches brings out the best in people and turns negative emotions to positive one. Empathetic and kind leaders encourage each person, especially the ones that appear shy or timid and give them a platform to speak and share their views. They would remember to smile at their staff members and each other wherever they meet them – acknowledging the presence of another is the most basic of human courteous interactions. Empathetic and kind leaders give their complete attention when someone is speaking with them, especially about their problems. Given that leaders are very busy people but they understand that it is rude to be attending to some other ‘business’ – like checking emails, answering phone calls or messages and other such activities that are not more important than the person sitting before them.

As a company grows and becomes more successful, empathetic and kind leaders share and attribute this success to their staff as well. Proper recognition and reward programs would be in place and people would know that their efforts would not go unnoticed. Leaders who genuinely care about their staff would exhibit it by checking back with their staff about their families, lend support and help in emergencies and illness and also follow up to ensure that the staff member is well taken care of.

It is a fact that if a part of the body is not used it becomes useless but if it is used well it becomes stronger and contributes to the smooth functioning of the whole. The same is with the qualities of kindness and empathy – when leaders use them regularly they become strong and spread to each person in the organization bringing about some noticeable positive results. Empathetic and kind leaders are able to increase the want of these qualities in their staff, promote a happy and positive work environment, reduce friction and negativity and also build loyalty, resilience and high energy within the organization. It is time for all leaders to become empathetic and kind leaders since negativity and authoritativeness are now frowned upon.

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