Empathy is often thought of as less important than hard skills such as confidence and determination, but when you consider that effective management is essentially about accomplishing work through others, it’s shortsighted to dismiss this quality so quickly. Empathy is the ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings. Why is it so essential? Effective leaders are able to conduct thoughtful conversations, use their sharpened people skills to better lead and because of those things, they create an office climate of empathy.

The most productive conversations involve listening. The listener, in this case the manager or leader of a company, needs to be able to suspend judgment while truly listening to what their employee is saying. In today’s society more than ever, managers are so busy that they literally may not have the time in their calendar to sit down and have these crucial conversations with the very people they are leading. By foregoing these important conversations, leaders are missing the opportunity to really hear and understand their employees.

Sharpened People Skills

When it comes to creating a productive work environment, leaders must take a genuine interest in their employees. A leader must show curiosity by asking questions about their employees’ lives, their hopes and their struggles. When this occurs, a leader builds even more empathy—and sharpens their people skills. An empathetic leader is more honed in to their employees feelings, behaviors and ultimately, their lives.

Cultivates an atmosphere of Empathy

When the leader of a company is empathetic, he or she creates an environment of empathy in the office. Once employees feel safe talking to their boss and communicating in an authentic way, it will carry over into the rest of their professional life. For example, once an employee has several positive experiences discussing tough personal situations with their boss, they will be better prepared to approach coworkers who seem to be struggling.
At its core leadership is ultimately about others. Leadership involves inspiring others to take actions beyond what they are capable of and guiding them in a positive direction. Empathy is the foundation of those actions, and is a key trait of a true leader.