UBC Executive Education

Why Empathy Matters

Executive Education Program
Posted 2021-11-24

4 Strategies to become a more empathetic leader

In the complex world we're all navigating being engaged and being empathetic matters - it makes you more effective. Like other core management skills empathy is something that can be learned, practiced, and refined. Being empathetic is a tangible quality, the better you are at it the more others will recognize and respond to your engagement and energy.

Often thought of as a soft skill that’s difficult to measure empathy is overlooked as a nice to have and not a must have for leaders. We praise the killer instinct but ignore the caring gene when assessing our leaders. But having the ability to understand the needs of others and being aware of their feelings and thoughts is critical to leadership success. It’s one more tool that helps leaders build positive, productive relationships and drives results from innovation to retention.

But how do you show empathy? What does it mean to be empathetic in the workplace? Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the situation of another, understanding and experiencing their emotions and opinions. Empathetic leaders don't switch to autopilot or rely on distracted, scripted routines to get through another call, another meeting, another day. They show up with focus and intent, taking the time to ask questions, find common ground and understand others. They look for clarity, praise creativity and demonstrate compassion.

The 4 Strategies

Empathetic leaders need to always be present for what's in front of them and not drifting, thinking about the past or the future. Can you imagine leading by slowing down? Creating success by connecting, not commanding? Think through 4 strategies you can incorporate into your leadership practice and be more empathetic.

Be Present

Switch off the autopilot (and the phone, and the Slack, and the email) and show up for the conversations that matter. Break your routine and take notes if you don't, don't take notes if you do. Let others talk while you listen, ask questions, and give permission to others to answer fully.

Have Intent

Bring your full attention to what's in front of you. Clear out the clutter, both physical and mental, and give yourself space to think. Be self-aware and understand how your past practices can impede your ability to be empathetic and miss new ways of doing, leading and being.

Be Creative

Be self-empathetic and give yourself the space and time to be innovative and creative. Give yourself permission to step away from the to-dos and must answers to think in new ways, without distraction. Use some of the energy you give to others to give back to yourself.

Be Compassionate

Listen to others and take the time to understand others. Think about how decisions effect employees, customers and communities.

Learn more about becoming a strong, confident and empathetic leader in times of uncertainty.