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Leading with Empathy

Empathy in its simplest form is defined as the ability to understand the feelings of another. It is a connection with others and a deeper understanding of what those around you are experiencing – often without discussion. Empathy is when you know how others are feeling – even when you don’t necessarily share those emotions.

Being a leader means being able to connect with your team in a way that does not always come from words. It means knowing your audience and being able to understand them to be able to inspire and influence. It means meeting your team where they are and demonstrating a level of relatability. It also means being able to flex and adjust your approach to lead effectively based on where your team is as well.

So how does one become an empathetic leader?

When you lead with empathy, you are essentially walking in the shoes of those who will be impacted by what you do. You are mindful of your actions impacting those around you – whether you intend to or not. Empathetic leadership is about mindfulness, intent, truly listening and authenticity.


Being mindful and aware is a critical skill to utilize when leading with empathy. To this degree, mindfulness is about truly being aware – this includes both self-awareness and social-awareness too. The more awareness and understanding that you have as an empathetic leader, the more you can be conscious of your thoughts, feelings and actions – and the more that you can be aware of those thoughts, feelings and actions, the more you’ll be able to manage them to allow for the best possible approach to leading the team around you.


As your mindfulness and understanding increases, being able to set intention and deliver on that intention follows. Being an empathetic leader means making conscious choice around how you want to show up, how you want to support your team, and how you want to demonstrate leadership in every moment. There are times when you want to be the relatable, personable, relationship-oriented leader – and there are times when you need to create a rally cry and do what’s best for the entire organization vs an individual. By setting that intention in advance, your ability to be connected and in touch will only deepen.


While empathy is not always about words, it is about deep understanding. As you grow as a leader, it is important to not always hear the words, but to hear the meaning behind the words, to hear the emotion behind the words, and to hear what is not actually being said. It’s about truly listening and understanding the whole picture, not just the situation at hand. And more importantly, it’s not always about hearing the positive stuff – it’s about hearing the good, the bad and the ugly and really being able to understand to create that empathetic approach too.


And finally, being an empathetic leader requires being true to yourself. Being a great leader requires this regardless, but especially when empathy comes into play as it does require a human connection and that deeper understanding beyond the surface. Being open and vulnerable (as much as you are comfortable with in the moment) will allow you to be yourself and to be true to who you are vs creating a different leadership persona – and it will allow others to feel that they can also be authentic and vulnerable. This cycle creates a community and a bond that will inspire greatness and success.

Being an empathetic leader is a powerful and meaningful approach to navigating your career and the success of your team and your organization. Take the time to truly understand what empathetic leadership means to you, how open and connected you are today, and create a plan on ways you can integrate mindfulness, intent, listening and authenticity into your approach today.

And if you ever need help to assess your leadership vision – WeInspireWe is here for you. Schedule your FREE strategy session today.

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