What is the Right Amount of Empathy for Leadership?

Leaders walk a fine line between creating a healthy rapport with their teams and becoming too emotionally entangled to lead with objectivity. This is often a result of leaders not being able to create boundaries with others because they feel and care so much. Empathy involves putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, but not living in their souls. When we are empathetic leaders, we are able to see our team member’s points of view while simultaneously keep our minds open. It can sometimes be a challenge to remain impartial when we have a personal connection to someone on our team. So here are a few strategies to help us balance our hearts and minds:



  • Listen with intent to validate- When having a discussion with team members, always validate what is shared without necessarily integrating the suggestion. People need to be heard and understood. That does not mean we need to feel that it is our responsibility to implement every suggestion that is offered.
  • Be sincere in responding- A fake leader can be recognized a mile away. It is so important that we are transparent and honest in what we communicate. Using clear words and appropriate body language enables us to be authentic in how we interact with others. It can be a good idea to take a few moments to gather our thoughts before sharing what we are thinking.
  • Connect about something meaningful- By asking questions about non-work parts of their lives, team members feel we care about them. The key with these conversations is to show concern, but not to delve into any highly charged or emotional issues. Leaders can build rapport by seeking information about a team member’s passion or how they spend time outside of work. Maybe by sharing something about our self can be worthwhile in building the relationship. The goal is to invest in another while still maintaining professional work camaraderie.
  • Maintain a professional work culture- Leaders need to model the way we should perform in the workplace as well as how we interact with each other. When conflict emerges, leaders must resolve the issues in a healthy way, whether that means compromise or integrating all the ideas into one solution. Trying to view work issues as objectively as possible can be helpful. Ask the question: What is the best decision for the team as a whole? What is important is that each member has the opportunity to contribute an opinion. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here are a few ways to cultivate empathetic leadership that also establishes a healthy and productive work environment. Do you have the right amount of empathy in your leadership style? Look forward to hearing from you.


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