Leaders will get more from their staff when they have an appreciation of empathy.

Empathy: More than a basic leadership quality?


Many leaders spend a lot of time building rapport with peers. After all, it’s much easier to get someone to do something if they’re on board from a personal perspective. Naturally then, empathy is an essential leadership skill.

It is often regarded as a single attribute. However, as a skill, it has several layers of complexity. Harvard Business Review contributor Daniel Goleman explained there are actually three types of empathy leaders need to be aware of:

  • Cognitive empathy: The ability to understand the perspective of peers.
  • Emotional empathy: The sense of being able to feel what others are feeling.
  • Empathic concern: Being able to second guess what another party needs from you.

All three fall under the same umbrella, but each should be understood separately. Ultimately, the most empathetic leaders are able to not only sense their own emotions, but also have an understanding of what others are feeling and how it will affect their output.

The performance connection

Research from the Center for Creative Leadership surmised that an indifferent leader is, essentially, an ineffective one. Consequently, those who show empathy will not only have the emotional intelligence to get the best from themselves, but also unlock performance from peers.

Inc contributor Justin Bariso pointed out that empathy in leadership doesn’t have to be overly complex, and can be as easy as imagining the feelings of another person.

This is made yet easier if you’ve ascended through the ranks in the workplace. If a peer is experiencing a similar problem to one that you may have faced in the past, empathy will not only help you build rapport with that colleague, it will also help in solving the problem at hand, too.

Not everyone has an innate sense of emotions. However, leaders who can fine tune their understanding of others over time will likely draw the most from their teams.

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