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  • Skills4Good. How to Develop Empathy as a Leadership Skill

How to Develop Empathy as a Leadership Skill

By Angelo Narciso

July 22, 2020

“My passion is to put empathy at the center of everything I pursue - from the products we launch, to the new markets we enter, to the employees, customers, and partners we work with... An empathetic leader needs to be out in the world, meeting people where they live.”

- - - Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft, in his bestselling book Hit Refresh

Empathy is an essential and crucial leadership skill, affirms global recruitment firm Korn Ferry. It describes leaders with empathy as those have “the ability to sense others’ feelings and how they see things.” They describe empathetic leaders as those who “take an active interest in [other’s] concerns, …[who] pick up cues to what's being felt and thought ...[who] listen attentively to understand the other person's point of view and the terms in which they think about what's going on.”

“Empathy is a business imperative that leads to tangible bottom line impact. It drives change and business performance,” declares the 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Report. Empathy is necessary to retain and engage top talent as part of a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. A sense of belonging in the workplace creates a safe space for colleagues to bring their whole selves to work. Why? Because they feel empowered to express their innovative ideas and voice out their authentic thoughts without fear of backlash.

There is a very strong business case for workplace empathy:

 
82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic employer
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78% of employees would work longer hours for a more empathetic employer
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72% of CEOs admit that workplace empathy needs to improve in their organizations to be more competitive
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So how does your organization build workplace empathy?

One way is by supporting employee volunteering. One research study reported a direct correlation between volunteerism and empathy. Individuals who volunteer develop higher levels of empathy than those who do not. Such initiatives are effective in deepening the relationship with the communities in which their employees live and work. They also expose employees to diverse experiences with people of varying backgrounds, thus creating fertile minds for employee creativity and innovation.

Take for example, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) engaged Skills4Good to match its employee Jodi Wright to serve on a nonprofit board. In her Skills4Good Spotlight feature, Jodi exclaimed:

“My experience working at RBC allows me to effectively contribute to the Board. I feel joy knowing that my contributions are helping to advance equality and empower women to effect positive change.”

It is empathetic leadership that will lead companies through this COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more purposeful.

As former U.S. President Barack Obama so eloquently declared:

“Learning to stand in somebody else's shoes, to see through their eyes, that's how peace begins. And it's up to you to make that happen.

Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.”

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