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Empathic Leadership: Understanding to Decide Properly

The current hectic pace of life is plunging society into a constant state of aggression.

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The current hectic pace of life is plunging society into a constant state of aggression. A trend that can be seen in the irresponsible and unwelcome comments on social networks, in the long faces in the supermarket queue and, of course, in the intransigence that is perceived in social relations, all of which affects relationships, that occur in companies, especially the relationships between bosses and employees.

The need arises, therefore, for a new management model with greater understanding and active listening: the empathic leadership.

As Ian Altman, author of Same Side Selling, points out. A Radical Approach to Break Through Sales Barrier, we have gone from ‘We agree that we disagree’, to ‘I am right; you do not. End of discussion’. We attend a situation of monologues cross-linked the place of dialogues In fact, according to a study by the University of Michigan, the levels of empathy among university students have dropped by 40% between 2000 and 2010.

However, companies are nourished by human relationships and need to lubricate these links to achieve excellence. In this sense, empathic leadership is configured as a powerful tool to recover a work environment based on collaboration.

Empathic leadership concept

To understand what empathic leadership is, we must start from the concept of empathy, defined by the Royal Academy of Language as the “ability to identify with someone and share their feelings“.

In this sense, the renowned psychotherapist Carl Rogers, author of The Way of Being, among many other books, explains that empathy “means entering the world deprived of the perception of the other person and feeling completely at ease”, leaving aside the opinions and values ​​to enter a world devoid of prejudices.

Guillermo Velázquez Valadez, in his essay Empathic Leadership, defines this management model as “a style of leadership that allows the leader to place himself in the place of his followers and, through the knowledge of individuals, their skills, their social skills and their abilities. of intervention and integration, form work teams that generate added value, creating competitive advantages for their organizations, as well as a significant increase in productivity, through quality innovations in production processes “.

Characteristics of the empathic leader

How is the empathic leader? The managers who exercise this style of leadership, are characterized by the following qualities:

  • They are enthusiastic and transmit their dynamism and energy to the staff.
  • They are warm and close in their dealings with subordinates, promoting job satisfaction.
  • They act with serenity, quietly studying each situation and adopting rational solutions.
  • They are fair in their decisions, putting the interests of the company before personal ones.
  • They practice active listening, making it easier for workers to expose their criticisms, desires or needs.
  • They are humble in the sense that they are aware that they are not in possession of the absolute truth and that they can also make mistakes and, above all, that they need others.

The advantages of this leadership style

According to a survey conducted in 2005 by the Mount Eliza Center for Executive Training at the Melbourne Business School, in which 627 leaders participated, empathy ranked fourth out of the top 20 leadership qualities.

Same opinion shared by the author of Wired of Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy, Dev Patnaik, for whom empathy is the critical factor in the business sector, because it is only possible to apply continuous improvement in companies when the Leader is aware of what is happening in his environment.

It is difficult to understand how a leader can become effective if he does not understand the perspective of his collaborators. In fact, most of the best leaders are empathic, since this quality allows them to take the emotional pulse of the organization and be synchronized with others, which leads to a more creative perspective in solving problems. As Stephen Covey said, “when you show a deep empathy towards others, it’s when you can be more creative in solving problems.”

How to improve empathy

In this context, is it possible to develop empathy? Like any other personal skill, this ability can be improved. Thus, Bruna Martinuzzi, in the article What’s Empathy Got To Do With It ?, collects a decalogue to enhance the empathic leadership within the company:

  • Listen. Active listening is the basis of empathy, so it is important to pay attention to the message that the interlocutor wants to convey with his words, but also – and especially – with his tone of voice, his gestures, his expression …
  • Interpret nonverbal language. In the same sense, the author proposes to pay attention to the non-verbal communication of the employees, whether they are talking or not, since it is a great source of information about their state of mind and their general situation.
  • Do not interrupt. Many people fall into the error of cutting off another’s exposure, either to show their dissatisfaction, give advice or provide comfort. Empathetic leadership needs to provide each person with their time to explain themselves.
  • Be aware of one’s state. Empathy does not consist only in understanding the other, but in self-evaluating oneself, perceiving the state of mind in which the leader finds himself and what he is communicating with his verbal and non-verbal language.
  • Focus on the conversation. Many managers answer calls, check papers or type on their computer while talking with an employee. However, empathic leadership brings full attention to the other person, without distractions of any kind.
  • Use proper names. To get to exercise the empathic leadership, another advice is to address the employees by name and, even, remember that of their relatives and children. In this way they will feel relevant and respected.
  • Smile. A smile on the face of the superior represents an invitation for the worker and makes him feel more comfortable
  • To imply. Another recommended practice is to facilitate the intervention of people, especially those who are more introverted, showing interest in their opinions.
  • Recognize the achievements. Congratulating employees for their work will make them feel valuable and useful, increasing their motivation and involvement.
  • Show interest in professionals. Small gestures such as asking about the weekend, hobbies, interests or personal history are elements that enhance empathic leadership.
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