3 Secrets to Leader Empathy

Leader empathy secretsDo modern leaders really need empathy – the ability to relate to and build upon the feelings and emotions of others – to be a better leader?

In short, if you have a role where you need to lean more heavily on influencing others ahead of merely issuing instructions, the answer is likely ‘yes’.

In fact, there’s hardly an industry or profession where emotional intelligence hasn’t become one of the most sought after traits for leaders.

Of course, that’s hardly surprising since, as Ray Williams put it so well in a recent Psychology Today post:

Recent studies have shown that contrary to some conventional wisdom, empathetic and compassionate leaders are strong and courageous; they promote trust and collaboration; promote well-being in others; and at the same time, they produce positive results.

In other words, leaders who foster and earn collaboration and trust get more done and create better working environments/cultures.

And yet, despite these truths, as Ray continues:

Every day, in politics, and in our institutions and business, we see the polar opposite of empathetic and compassionate leaders—individuals who are narcissistic, self-serving, and power-hungry—who create havoc in our society.

Does that strike you as odd?

If you said yes, maybe it shouldn’t.

Here’s Why Achieving Leader Empathy is Harder Than You Might Imagine

Research shows that the vast majority of bosses don’t rate highly when it comes to achieving empathy – to the extent that 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged and valued at work! Wow, right? And if that has you wondering ‘How come? Don’t most bosses try their best to engage others?’, here’s something to chew on…

…Regardless of good intentions, many leaders find it’s hard to break free of ‘my way and for my reasons’ communication habits when they know their job performances will likely be assessed according to ‘individual results’ for those areas/roles in which ‘they were in control’.

Aha. And there it is folks, the ‘control’ word. If control is expected of you, it can be mighty hard not to seek to control others! In fact, it’s human nature.

And yet, that’s exactly what is required to influence others – encouraging them to believe they can and should make decisions and take actions of their own volition versus ‘because you said so’.

All of which begs a few questions:

How do you fight the good fight, what does it take to take to achieve leader empathy, and how would you know when you’ve cracked it (while bearing in mind this fundamental truth: If others can’t see it and feel it, it didn’t happen)?

How to Crack the Leader Empathy Code (And Why it Matters)

Check out today’s video where I share 3 easy ways to boost your leader empathy in most any role:

  • Why leaders/bosses may unwittingly be compromising the ability of others (direct reports, peers or senior audiences) to trust a word they say
  • How the way in which you frame your communications dictates how audiences react to your ideas
  • Why giving control away is a ‘heart and soul’ secret to motivating others to get things done

Like to Achieve Greater Leader Empathy and Impact?

If you’d like to boost your ability to engage, inspire and influence any audience at a heightened level, contact me at eobrien@thersc.ie. I’ll be delighted to help you.


Photo Credit: Dean Wissing

About Eamonn O'Brien

Public speaking master, Eamonn O'Brien is the founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club.