Critical Leadership Traits – Accountability

I have been discussing critical leadership traits in my last several blogs. Empathy is the fourth trait of the five traits we are discussing. The basic definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. If we were to look at the top five leadership traits from 10 or 20 years ago, I’m confident that empathy would not have made the list.

In the last 10 years or so, the role of the leader has changed tremendously. The leader of today has to look at their employees as the heart and soul of the organization. Generation Z’s and millennials continue to slowly become the largest component of the workforce. Depending on the research you look at, about 44-50% of the workforce is comprised of Gen Z’s and millennial’s. They are looking for a more humane, caring, and empathic workforce than baby boomers who now make up less than 20% of the workforce.

Here are 4 Attributes of Empathy:

  • Perspective taking
  • Staying out of judgment
  • Recognizing emotion in another person
  • Communicating the understanding of another person’s emotions

Perspective taking focuses on walking a mile in another person’s shoes. You need to understand where they are coming from before taking any further steps. In many situations, many arguments could be avoided if you followed this step before going further.

Staying out of judgement pertains to not being too hasty when judging someone, you need to listen effectively and ask probing questions to gain the right information. Remember our first blog in this series was on the art of listening.

Recognizing emotion in another person includes understanding that if another person is truly frustrated or angry it will be difficult to try and rationalize with them at that moment in time. Having been in HR for 30+ years now, I have learned that many times employees just want a safe place to vent. They didn’t want advice, coaching, or an opinion. Often, an upset employee would come into my office, vent for 30 minutes and say thank you so much. It took me about 10 years to realize that all I needed to do in this situation was listen and nod my head occasionally. This was all the employee was looking for at the time.

Lastly, communicating the understanding of another person’s emotions. This goes back to our first leadership trait we discussed last month. Listening effectively to truly gain understanding is an art form. Salespeople, interviewers, all leaders need to be able to listen to understand, not just listen for the sake of listening.

In today’s changing workforce employees want very different things from employers than they did in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Gone are the days of unwavering employee loyalty. Loyalty still exists, but on a different level. Today employees want a great culture, a strong purpose in the company’s mission, and to work for leaders who want to know the employee as a person. Today and tomorrow’s best companies are those that love, care for, and show empathy to their employees. These are the companies that have little difficulty in hiring employees. In most cases, they are also the companies that perform better financially compared to their competition.
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Small and medium-sized businesses may not have the time or expertise to implement the necessary people strategies for business success. The ideas above can be easily implemented by you to help improve the performance of your employees which leads to increased employee engagement and increasing the bottom line.

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