How to Harness the Power of Empathy for Effective Leadership

Guest
post from Maria Ross:
Let me ask you a question: What does a
successful leader look like? Effective leaders are masters of business
strategy. They are visionaries who know how to clearly communicate their vision
to others. To climb the corporate ladder, you’ve got to make fast, difficult
decisions at critical times. Successful leaders have persistence, tenacity,
confidence, enthusiasm.
But what about compassion, kindness, and
empathy?
Imagine: a leader who knows how to gain
efficiencies, decrease costs, increase employee retention, and inspire customer
loyalty based on taking another’s point of view? This is the power of empathy
at work.
The POWER of Empathy?
Now, the types of leadership qualities that
show up on list after list are there for good reason. Being strategic, being a
visionary, being decisive, being persistent, tenacious, confident, and enthusiastic
all propel individual success as well as an organization’s success.
It’s true. The business benefits of
compassion, kindness, and empathy are less obvious, especially in an
uber-competitive world. However, when you look closely, you discover that it
becomes difficult to see empathy as anything other than essential for competent
leadership. After all, I can think of no better foundation for a business model
than recognizing the pain and suffering of others as a problem in need of a
solution.
Empathetic leaders at all levels, including
managers, HR professionals, consultants, and c-level executives, are more
competent leaders because they understand the power of meeting people where
they are:
    
Empathetic entrepreneurs use their
transformative experiences to empower others and fuel their businesses.
    
Empathetic managers put their
teams at ease and support their employees as they achieve mutually beneficial
goals.
    
Empathetic executives adapt to the
inevitable shifts in business with calm confidence. They watch new ideas take
root and recognize the value of developing products to meet customer needs.
If you see the power of empathy at work and
are ready to unlock this power in your own leadership, I’ve got some good news:
empathy is a skill you can exercise like a muscle. Just as you can learn to
become more strategic, more of a visionary, and more decisive, you can learn to
be more compassionate.
Here are seven simple ways to train yourself
to lead more empathetically:
1.
Practice Presence:
When you learn to be more present
with yourself, you’ll be free to be more present with others. Take five
minutes—yes, just five minutes—out of your day to meditate or sit in silence.
Avoid distractions. Don’t multitask.
2.
Listen More, Stay Humble:
Empathetic leaders listen
with restraint to people’s experiences, stories, and perspectives. When you
really listen, you pause, look for common ground, and offer constructive
feedback that connects with the other person. 
3. Be
Curious:
Authentically empathetic people are always
learning from others and the world around them. Because they’re constantly
curious, they are open to new synergies and able to make surprising connections
while planting the seeds of success.
4.
Explore with Your Imagination:
Getting inside the
minds of employees and customers means getting inside the minds of human
beings. You can do this outside of work too. Immerse yourself in films,
documentaries, biographies, theater, art, or music.
5.
Cultivate Confidence:
It might seem counterintuitive
for a leader to lack confidence. But many leaders forget to track their goals
and celebrate their wins because they’re focused on the success of the company
as a whole. Bolster your confidence so you can pass it on.
6. Get
in the Trenches:
If you deem a job “beneath” you or a
“waste of your time,” consider the message you’re sending to those doing this
job on a daily basis. Instead, try standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your
salespeople or jump on a customer service call.
7. Find
Common Ground:
As an empathetic leader, you want to
build a community, not simply lift up individuals. Look for intersecting
experiences, abilities, and needs. At these crossroads, you’ll find
opportunities to come together.
What do you think? Will you join me in
rewriting the script about what gives businesses a competitive advantage? Let’s
show the world what compassionately competitive, kindly ambitious, and
empathetic, yet decisive leaders look like!
Maria
Ross
, the founder of brand consultancy Red Slice,
believes cash flow, creativity and

compassion are not mutually exclusive. Maria
has authored multiple books, including The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of
Compassion as an Engine for Success.
She has spoken to audiences
ranging from The New York Times to
BlogHer and has written for numerous media outlets, including Entrepreneur.com.