More business owners realize that good leadership is more than just about setting an example and getting good results. It is also about making a connection with employees. Why?

Because connecting with employees makes them more invested in their jobs. In addition, employers who connect with their employees will learn how to satisfy their needs better, translating into higher retention rates due to better job satisfaction.

One of the ways employers and others in leadership positions can make a connection is through empathy. The information below details the basics of empathy in leadership and how it can benefit the organization.

What Does Empathy Mean In Leadership?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It requires awareness, acknowledgement, and respect for others’ feelings. By this definition, empathy is a leadership trait.

In leadership, empathy is considering the emotional impact of actions or work instead of just statistics and performance indicators. In addition, it demands being respectful of employees’ feelings.

How Does Empathy Help Leaders?

Empathy is not just for the benefit of employees. Leaders can be more balanced and efficient in work because of practising empathy.

A survey suggests that empathetic leaders have better job performance. Leaders who practice empathy often communicate better, resulting in more efficient outcomes.

In addition, employees are more open to sharing struggles or setbacks in the workplace with empathetic leaders. Therefore, leaders get first-hand information about anything that could mess with productivity. Getting ahead of the problem also contributes to better job performance.

In relation, leaders who practice empathy are less stressed, have great emotional intelligence, and will often experience better job satisfaction.

Empathy Vs. Sympathy

It is worth noting that empathy and sympathy are often confused in speaking and actions. Sympathy is the ability to acknowledge someone’s feelings. On the other hand, empathy goes beyond acknowledgements; it involves understanding and sometimes sharing these feelings.

For example, sympathy is offering a message of condolence when a co-worker has lost a loved one. Empathy, on the other hand, is offering this message and even getting involved to ensure the team member has the support they need.

In short, empathy involves a more profound connection fueled by imaginative feelings as if you were in the other person’s shoes, while sympathy does not. They are both critical leadership skills.

Importance Of Empathy In Leadership

Research shows that empathy is the most critical quality of leadership. It is essential in leadership for the following reasons:


Leaders who show empathy are more likely to build trust among team members. Trust is vital in building functional working relationships. There will be better chances at collaboration and an increase in productivity because employees will feel their needs are taken care of.

Becoming more rounded

Leaders cannot solely rely on statistics, work ethics, and similar factors to advance their careers. Empathy humanizes leaders, making them more rounded. Thus they are better equipped to take on even more challenging leadership roles.

Solving conflict better

Often, leaders are tasked with solving disputes between co-workers, especially when working in the same team. Conflict resolution can be challenging, so leaders must practice empathy for faster and better results.

Teaching others

Empathetic leaders model the leadership skills others need to have to become good leaders. They set an example for future leaders within the company.

Developing attentiveness and patience

Empathy teaches leaders to be more attentive and patient when dealing with situations. Understanding how employees or team members feel can cultivate tolerance and increase awareness of the status of employees.

Providing tools needed for success

Leaders who empathize with employees get insight into their thoughts, including any hindrance they face in the work environment. Thus, they can develop and give access to tools and literature that will foster success in job processes.

How Do Leaders Show Empathy?

Being a great leader demands showing empathy without being perceived as weak. Therefore, empathetic leadership can look a little like the following:

Being Fully Present

Empathetic leaders should be fully present when listening to employees. When others are expressing their feelings, good leaders are right there with them. They do not check the time or take meetings; instead, they concentrate on putting themselves in their point of view through active listening. The best way to do this is by scheduling one on one meetings. 

Practising Emotional Intelligence

Leaders need to show their emotions healthily, especially being vulnerable. It ensures employees see leaders as human beings instead of units of authority.

Being Keen On Nonverbal Cues

Empathetic leaders understand that more is said with body language than speech. So, they pay extra attention to body language when engaging with employees. In addition, they are keenly aware of what their body language says.

Taking A Genuine Interest In Others

Empathetic leaders have a genuine curiosity for the feelings of others and their lives. They show interest by asking questions and following up. Not just on work but personal matters too. Personal interest is stronger than professional because it is the quickest way to build genuine relationships.

Willingness To Help With Personal Issues

For years, managers have been unwilling to help with personal matters because it does not involve work. But the impact on personal matters affects productivity and the company. Empathetic leaders are more willing to help employees with personal issues. They keep communication lines open and guarantee employees help with personal matters.

Recognizing And Solving Burnout

Burnout is a serious concern in the workplace. This is why empathetic leaders are keen on recognizing signs of burnout early and taking steps to prevent it. Doing so makes people feel more seen and more willing to work.

The Benefits Of Empathy In Leadership To The Organization

Empathetic leadership has the following benefits for the organization:

Improving Productivity

Evidence shows that empathetic companies see better productivity—leaders who are more open and understand employees’ feelings develop better working relationships. Thus, productivity increases because employees know their managers support and validate their feelings. It brings out the best in everyone, especially in performance.

Better productivity translates to business growth. People work harder and contribute to the company’s bottom line, triggering exceptional growth.

Improving Company Reputation

Employee retention rates are a keen aspect that potential candidates look at. Empathetic leaders foster an excellent work environment where employees feel understood. This contributes to better job satisfaction– employees are less likely to leave such a favourable work environment.

In turn, it builds a good reputation for the company. Top talent is not just attracted to a good salary and benefits. Small features like these improve how potential candidates view the company.


Empathetic leaders understand the differences among employees and embrace them more meaningfully. The acknowledgement from leaders encourages employees to retain their positions in the workplace.

It also inspires co-workers to recognize differences as a source of strength. They will also find common interest points to strengthen relationships. HR professionals will feel more confident onboarding diverse groups, knowing they will find a hospitable and inclusive work environment.

Final Thoughts

The days when employees left personal matters at the door are over. More employers realize that these personal matters directly affect input, productivity, and the bottom line. Thus, empathetic leadership is necessary to improve job satisfaction, retention rates, and productivity.

Leaders should realize that effective leadership involves taking a personal interest in employees’ lives. Self-awareness and easy accessibility are often the first steps in becoming an empathetic leader. Making a connection is the goal.