Empathetic Leadership: How to Improve Your Business Performance

Empathetic Leadership: How to Improve Your Business Performance

Some people consider leadership to be an overestimated skill, but it’s really one of the key success drivers in the business. According to the study, over 80% of organizations claim it is important to develop leaders at all levels, but only 5% actually achieve this goal.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that leadership is a complex phenomenon. There are many types of leadership – autocratic, transaction, charismatic, etc. In this post, we will show you how to improve business performance with empathetic leadership.


Why Empathetic Leadership?

By definition, empathetic leadership is the ability of leaders to understand, relate to and be sensitive to customers, colleagues, and communities. It is becoming increasingly important in modern business due to the variety of reasons:


  • Boost teamwork: No one can run a company single-handily, so you need a team of colleagues who will understand your ideas and put them into practice.
  • Understand the root of a problem: An empathetic leader doesn’t focus exclusively on consequences but also knows how to deal with the actual cause of the problem.
  • Improve talent retention: The best employees will leave a company very quickly if you don’t show respect and understanding for their problems.


Although empathy comes as a natural talent for some people, everybody can practice and develop this trait. This is crucial for business owners and senior managers who want to improve their leadership skills. But how exactly can you do that? Keep reading to find out!


8 Ways to Develop Empathetic Leadership

There are many practical ways to develop empathetic leadership skills, but we decided to narrow down the options for you and reveal 8 tactics that proved to generate the best results. Here they are:


  • Listen to your colleagues

The opening tip on our list is easy – you need to learn to truly listen to the people around you. This is a big problem for most managers, so it’s the first hurdle you have to jump over in the process. You should not interrupt colleagues while speaking or check emails on a smartphone.

Sarah Scholz, a CMO at Superior Papers, told us how she got over this issue: “You should just show that you are an active listener who really wants to understand his subordinates. Pay attention to their words, body languages, and hidden messages. Once you open your mind to the problems and ideas of your employees, you can expect a positive feedback from their side”.


  • Be honest

Honesty is an anchor of healthy relationships both in and out of the workplace. Empathetic leaders build trust by speaking their minds openly and directly, leaving no room for potential misunderstandings. Don’t hesitate to express concern, but do it in a proactive way – suggest how to solve the problem and follow the progress.

Of course, you can get closer to your colleagues occasionally by asking a few questions about their private lives. It’s an excellent ice-breaker in case you do it politely and honestly. John C. Maxwell explained it briefly: “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them”.


  • Embrace diversity

Each company is a set of different professional profiles. You will hardly find a profitable organization that hires only likeminded people because diversity is the source of inspiration and creativity. You need to accept that different styles and talents contribute to the effectiveness of your company, so don’t judge employees just because they don’t resemble you.


  • Understand multiple perspectives

A recent research proved that almost 75% of students rate themselves as less empathic than the average college graduate 30 years ago. But as a young leader, you cannot afford to be narrow-minded.

On the contrary, you have to understand multiple perspectives and see how employees at all levels of the hierarchy think and behave. You need to delegate the right tasks to the right people and allow them to focus on things they do best. It will make everyone more productive and improve the overall performance of your team.


  • Respect everybody’s time

Empathetic leaders know that time is precious. They don’t enjoy having long speeches, but rather concentrate on efficiency. If you have to spend two hours explaining something to your subordinate, feel free to do so. But if you can finish it all in not more than 15 minutes, why waste everybody’s time? Employees who realize that you respect their time – both on and off work – will be grateful and ready to work hard to achieve the planned results.


  • Let them learn

Lifelong learning is not an exception, but the new standard of modern business. Empathetic leaders know this, so they allow employees to keep learning and gaining additional knowledge. You should organize brainstorming sessions with all workers, pay them for online courses or seminars, and organize training sessions with industry experts. This is a great way to prove that you care about your staff, but also a convenient tactic to increase retention rate.


  • Admit making a mistake

Nobody’s perfect and you can’t expect to do your job flawlessly. Embrace your mistakes and admit you are wrong sometimes – employees will applaud you for that and see you as a role model. They won’t be trying to hide their own mistakes. Instead, they will be honest and discuss all issues with you directly.


  • Show gratitude

No matter how good you are as a leader, you won’t be able to develop a long-term business without help from your team. Therefore, you should show gratitude and thank them for reaching the desired objectives.

Make it official by organizing a cocktail party or a team building adventure. It’s the opportunity to celebrate professional victories and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees.



Empathetic leadership is one of the best drivers of success in business. It’s a set of skills almost anyone can learn and develop, so you should invest some time and work on it. In this post, we showed you 8 ways how to improve business performance through empathetic leadership.

Do you think this trait could help you become a better manager? Do you already use some of these empathy-related skills? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and share your leadership experiences with our readers!

Joan Selby

Joan Selby is a creative writer and business consultant. In her free time, Joan enjoys drawing and playing the piano. Drop her a line on Facebook!

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