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Why empathetic leaders build effective businesses

"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." – Maya Angelou

You might think of power, dedication and focus when it comes to leadership, but a study by Development Dimensions International found that empathy is the number one skill leaders need today. It’s become such a priority that up to 20% of employers now offer empathy training, aware that being able to listen and respond effectively can make all the difference in a workplace.

Still not convinced? Here are four reasons all leaders should practice empathy:

1. You’re more likely to retain your team.

Does having loyal employees sound like a win? One of the largest problems businesses face is employee turnover – with staff leaving for different opportunities, or because they simply don’t feel appreciated or valued where they are. One of the most common reasons is that they just don’t really trust the people they report to, nervous that a small misstep will result in harsh penalties and potential termination.

If you want your staff to stick around, learning how to relate to them, listen empathetically, and genuinely care will make a world of difference when it comes to their loyalty.

2. Your productivity will improve.

Your team isn’t just more likely to stick around if you have empathetic leaders, but they’re more likely to focus on, engage with and produce quality work. By letting them know that you appreciate their actions, they’ll naturally feel more satisfaction in their work – if you put in more work, they will too.

3. Your team will have a better dynamic.

When employees are stressed, they’re more likely to be short tempered and argumentative. If they’re worried that a slip-up will result in a termination, they might become more paranoid. If their boss is cold and closed off, they’ll start to mimic that behaviour. After all, if the team lead doesn’t care, why should the team?

Having an empathetic leader can do wonders when it comes to team dynamics. Lower stress, heightened job satisfaction, a renewed sense of purpose and a decrease in competition can result in better teamwork, less conflict, and more success and productivity.

When your team is happier and more collaborative, you’ll also see less absenteeism and higher morale.

4. Your team will have more and better ideas.

If you’re an empathetic leader and your team feels comfortable and supported, they’re more likely to not just work productively, but also present ideas for the business of their own accord. This increases their value ten-fold, as they’ll become more likely to come up with ideas, processes and methods that don’t just improve their work, but the work of everyone on board.

If they can see their ideas being put into practice, they’ll feel a sense of ownership over their work – resulting in more time and energy invested and better results and satisfaction for everyone.


When it comes to leading, you might be surprised at how effective soft skills can be: so next time you’re in a team meeting, try listening and understanding more, and directing less.

- Lena Klein

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