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5 reasons empathy is the most important leadership skill

If you want a happier, more productive staff, you might need to be more empathic.

5 reasons empathy is the most important leadership skill
[Photo: FlamingoImages/iStock]

According to studies carried out by Development Dimensions International (DDI), empathy is the biggest single leadership skill needed today. According to Richard S. Wellins, senior vice president of DDI, “Being able to listen and respond with empathy is overwhelmingly the one interaction skill that outshines all other skills.” Other research has backed up DDI findings. Dianne Crampton at Gonzaga University found that “Empathy is a universal team value that promotes high commitment and cooperation in the workplace.”

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Some companies believe that empathy is so important that they send managers to “empathy training.” According to the Wall Street Journal 20% of employers now offer empathy training, which is up substantially from 10 years prior.

Here are five reasons that empathy is becoming the number one leadership skill:

1. Your staff will be more loyal

One of the struggles that every organization faces is retaining talented staff. One of the most common cited reasons for people leaving an organization is lack of trust in and appreciation from those they report to. Empathy increases trust, a sense that staff are valued and cared about. Whether in our personal relationships or part of an organization, we will be more likely to stay when we feel like we are heard, appreciated, and cared about.

2. Your staff will be more engaged

Have you ever noticed that when someone close to you notices how you are feeling or tells you much they appreciate something you have done for them? You automatically have the urge to do more for them. In terms of employee engagement, it is known that when leadership demonstrates to employees that they care, the reciprocity reaction kicks in and they want to put in more effort. Somehow many organizations miss this basic, yet very important point when it comes to leadership behaviors. Successful organizations are aware of this and their leaders continuously look for ways to notice, compliment, and find ways to show their appreciation to their staff.

3. Your employees will work better with each other

Not only do employees that feel valued and appreciated want to do more in their work, they want to do more for their fellow employees. When empathy is demonstrated at the top, it is passed down throughout the organization, resulting in an increase in teamwork, a decrease in staff conflict, and a decrease in workplace disruption. This collaboration will result in better coordinated work effort and increased productivity.

4. Your staff will be happier

Staff that feel seen, heard, and appreciated feel more satisfied with their work and as a result miss fewer days on the job. As the level of job satisfaction increases, so does the level of absenteeism. Staff who feel less committed to the organization will feel less motivated to come to work. Their rational is that since nobody cares, so why should they? Increased absenteeism decreases morale as coworkers who have to pick up the slack become resentful. This can create a downward spiral in terms of employee morale and absenteeism rates.

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5. Everyone will be more creative

People who perceive they are part of an organization and feel heard and appreciated tend to risk more and look for ways to add increased value to the organization. They are more likely to put time and energies coming up with new ideas, processes, and methods to improve their own work and move the organization forward. Their commitment to the organization makes them feel that their success and that of the organization are interrelated, boosting their desire to find new, better, and more efficient ways of working.

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About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com

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