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    Mar 17, 2022    |   Camille Labrie

Empathy: Still One of the Key Ingredients for Effective Leadership

2 minute read

Written by Justin Deonarine, I/O Psychologist

The concept of the empathetic leader is currently a popular trend and will continue to be so in 2018. The ability to lead diverse groups is an increasingly important skill to have, and the ability to empathize with different individuals will impact one’s ability to lead these diverse groups. Connecting these qualities together: Even if you think you’re empathizing with the needs of your team or organization, do they feel the same?

– Justin M. Deonarine, 2018, HR Director Magazine

empathetic leader holding employee hand It’s interesting how some things haven’t changed much over the past few years. While empathy has been well-established as a key component of leadership, and newer research suggests that it might be the most important ingredient for effective leadership.

At the end of the quote above, I hinted that empathy isn’t effective by itself. Simply listening to the needs of your team doesn’t address the concerns that they’re facing. Part of the equation involves taking action. The most effective leaders are the ones who listen to their team and help them address the challenges that they’re facing (not just one or the other).

This concept was highlighted when I analyzed a group of 712 Senior Leaders (Directors and C-Level Executives) and asked the question “How do effective leaders show empathy?” Having their Work Personality Index results, I looked to the Concern For Others scale for the answer to this.

Individuals with lower scores on the Concern For Others scale tend to be more task-oriented, while those with higher scores tend to be people-oriented. When examining the group of senior leaders, the majority scored in the middle of the range, indicating that they are balancing the need for empathy and accomplishing tasks.

When working with organization, I often use the phrase “balancing people and progress” to describe how leaders need to work with people to achieve goals. Even when it comes to showing empathy, leaders need to be able to strike a balance: They need to listen to their employees, show their support through their actions, and still achieve organizational goals.

Even when it comes to empathy, it comes back to an idea that has been recorded as far back as 700 BC: “Everything in moderation.”


Filed under: Leadership Development