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Why Good Managers and Exceptional Managers Differ in Their Empathy

  • 29th Apr'23

How to be an empathetic leader?

Delegation? Communication? Strategic vision? As a manager or director, you must strive to get the most out of your team. Even if you are just in charge of a small department, your responsibilities will need you to meet business objectives while keeping your employees happy and engaged.

There are many effective managers in today's workplace; maybe you've worked with some of them, or perhaps you even qualify as one. How many outstanding leaders do you know, though? And what distinguishes the two? Should we gauge superior leadership by its successes, like profit margins and productivity increase? Yet, this would only provide a glimpse of the overall picture.

You might be surprised to learn that "emotional aspects account for roughly 90% of the difference between excellent and average leaders." As we'll see, "soft skills" are vital in leadership and may perhaps grow more so in the years to come. Empathy, in particular, may take you and your team from good to outstanding regarding emotional intelligence. Hence the question here is how to be an empathetic leader.


Tips to be an empathetic leader 

Keep in mind that effective leadership requires empathy while moving the company forward. This is how to be an empathetic leader:

1. Think about the people you're managing

You might be the boss of a company in 2019 that employs people from up to five distinct generations. These workers will have diverse perspectives on their jobs and what they require from a manager or fellow leader, ranging from Traditionalists to Generation Z. As a result, you can utilize empathy to manage each of them more skillfully, but in various ways. If you routinely communicate with someone, who is 70 years old, how and why you demonstrate empathy with them will differ from how you manage a Millennial Junior Manager, who is 32 years old. Even the future of the workforce, Gen Z, has radically different employment priorities than Millennials.

The need for purpose and willingness to switch jobs in quest of it are two traits that define Millennials; and, studies suggest 43% of Millennials aim to leave their current job in the next two years. How can managers of Millennials utilize empathy to foster loyalty and develop opportunities that are motivated by a higher purpose?

Financial security is more important to Gen Z than it was to their Millennial parents because of the recession and demographic transition that occurred in their lifetimes. How could you encourage the younger team members given this knowledge?

By demonstrating empathy to these groups now, you may future-proof the success of your company's teams for years to come. Hence, having management feedback is important.


2. Choose your language carefully 

Lowering your standards is not the point of empathy. It's also not simply about giving someone a warm hug after a long day. It can be counterproductive to describe empathy as a "soft ability," as it runs the danger of giving the wrong impression. Avoid using this kind of terminology while setting an example for the team by not considering trying to understand an employee's personal circumstances to be "prying."


3. There is something called over-empathetic 

Expect your decision-making to suffer if you overdo empathy and only act from the heart. The lack of long-term strategic vision or big-picture thinking could result from this. Both outcomes would be undesirable.

While active listening and pausing before responding automatically are two ways to create empathy, you need also to learn to manage it. A strong leader needs to know when and how to turn it off for both the sake of the company's success and their health.


4. Start small 

It takes time for a leader to become empathic. But, it doesn't necessitate making significant adjustments to your personality or manner of leadership. Give yourself a straightforward three-step challenge for the upcoming weeks: learn more, care more, and demonstrate more.

Do you understand what matters to each person on your team?

How can you demonstrate your concern and desire to help the people under your management? It's the little things—keeping your office door open, giving them your whole attention when they speak, and noting their need for additional training—that truly make a difference. Finally, how well do you publicize the excellent work your team does? We are aware of the significance of praise and rewards for motivation thanks to behavioral economics. Show that you are aware of their need for recognition and offer them the opportunity to shine.


In conclusion, one of the most powerful forces behind employee engagement, loyalty, and diversity in the workplace is empathy. It encourages teams to work well together, makes them feel valued, and helps them accomplish organizational objectives.

But, empathy by itself is insufficient to offer trustworthy direction, and even the finest intentions can occasionally go badly when empathy takes precedence over logical reasoning. A problem-solving approach in leadership that is based on what will be most beneficial for all parties and on practical ways for putting answers and insights into practice should go hand in hand with empathy. You can use the power of empathy to create a more contented, creative staff by striking this equilibrium.


Shellye is committed to helping people from diverse backgrounds achieve their careers and life aspirations. The content published above was made in collaboration with our members.

Shellye Archambeau is determined to help you with all possible strategies to climb the ladder of success. She values your feedback. Do mention them in the comment section below.

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