Cultivating Empathy: A Core Quality for a Modern Business Leader


“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”

- Oprah Winfrey

The COVID-19 pandemic has unsurprisingly made upper management, leadership across the world realise that their teams matter more than their revenues. Imagine yourself as a leader or a team manager overlooking the emergencies of your team, micro-managing them for deadlines, deliverables - doesn't feel human, correct? That's why empathy has become the touchstone of leadership lessons, practices for entrepreneurs, global leaders, change-makers for all the right reasons.

Empathy Transforms Business Leaders

Modern day professionals are adjusting to a new world after the pandemic. Fear for their families, uncertainties, competitive peers can overwhelm your teams more than you can fathom. Cultivating empathy, therefore, becomes essential for you as a leader.

Every leader wishes to lead their teams through inspiration, mentorship, and example. However, genuine empathy for your teams, employees are always seen through by them. Therefore, as a leader, you must go beyond the obvious and understand the needs, feelings, experiences of your teams. Remember that you were once an ambitious new employee in your organisation and had you not been mentored by an empathetic team lead or a senior manager, you might not have transformed into a successful business leader yourself.

Benefits of Empathetic Business Leadership

Considering the paradigm shift that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to global workplaces, empathetic leadership has become the need of the hour. As a business leader, you must take cognisance of the same. Strive to create a culture of empathy, understanding and relentless support for your team. Undeniably, over the long term, your team would start valuing you and your organisation for it.

More importantly, as an empathetic business leader, you would succeed to retain your core team members, industrious talent within your company. People leave their jobs mainly because of toxic work culture, insensitive managers. Conversely, they value business leaders who are invested in their growth, well-being and progress.

In the book Creativity, Inc., the co-founder of Pixar, Ed Catmull eloquently shares, “Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas.” Nurturing your empathy muscle as a business leader, therefore, has more rewards to offer than one can potentially imagine. Hence, do not ignore empathy in the lieu of delusional fiscal projections. Your teams will eventually lead you to them if you support them unconditionally.

Becoming an Empathetic Business Leader

There is a misconception that empathy makes a business leader look weak. Vulnerability must be avoided by the leadership. The converse is true. When business leaders actively listen, share their struggles, their motivations, they strike a more empathetic rapport with their teams. An empathetic business leader appears more human, more approachable and understanding. Shaping your empathy can be slightly time taking but with intent and genuine concern for your team, you would emerge as an outstanding business leader.

Start this journey towards being an empathetic business leader by sharing your fears, vulnerabilities with your teams. Actively listen to them, support them through their tough times. Slowly and steadily, your empathy will win over their trust.

Across organisations, empathy has become a crucial yardstick to understand and improve business leadership. As an emerging business leader, empathy will forge you for all the challenges and success ahead, cultivate it now.

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