If you were to ask most business leaders if they want to succeed in business, I would be surprised if they said anything but “yes.” These executives and managers of all types are the same people who most likely see themselves as great leaders.
With this in mind, let me ask you two questions:
1. Are you the best leader you can be?
2. Could you better succeed in your personal and organization’s business goals if you were that leader?
The answers may seem obvious, but the truth is the dominant executive culture has only recently begun to trend away from patterns of treating employees like robots and more like a “whole person.” Treating someone as a whole person requires more than just providing compensation. It requires an empathetic investment from their leader to create the ideal outcome for the employee and the company. An empathetic workplace is the opposite of a condescending one.
Although the skill sets of CEOs and other executives may vary depending on their industry, background, and goals, one ability consistent with great leaders is the simple human tool of applied empathy.
Why Empathy Is Important
When you add empathy into leadership, it manifests not only as a personal benefit, but its effects become a big part of the workplace culture because it promotes healthy interaction and teamwork towards accomplishing goals. When a CEO acts empathically, they can focus on seeing things from another person’s point of view. Great leaders create a space for their employees to feel wanted and appreciated. When the employees see the results of their work are acknowledged and appreciated, they are more likely to stay.
The Logan Roy/Shark Tank mindset of “search and destroy” business is on its way out. The workforce has become highly educated and inspired by reform movements like the Great Resignation and “Quiet Quitting”. Whether or not you agree with these ideas doesn’t matter. What matters is that it signals a time when leaders need to adapt to social change or lose their significance.
Employees will continue to demand more from their executives than just a paycheck. They want to be heard. Today’s workers benefit from technological advancements and desire a healthy life/work balance. The motto has changed from “what’s good for the company” to “what is good for the employee”. And the two are not mutually exclusive.
Progressive workplace cultures are built on a foundation of compassionate leadership. Your business’s reputation as a fantastic place to work will highlight your company’s activities in the face of your competitors and set the stage for you to hire A players.
The Intersections of Basic Empathy
For all the corporate talk of diversity, often the message is lost that diversity is a direct product of top-down empathetic leadership. A diverse, empathetic, inclusive environment will follow if you are a mindful leader. The ability to listen, care, take suggestions and criticisms and turn them into solutions are examples of basic empathy that can lead to a more inclusive and better business environment.
Kindness is a form of empathy that goes a long way in any environment. Evidence supports that most people leave jobs because of a negative or hostile work environment. A manager raises the bar for the entire workforce when he is better liked. When examining why your company has a retention problem, you need to ask yourself what you are doing or not doing to make your employees feel welcome.
Accountability is another essential attribute of being an empathetic CEO. When a leader acknowledges the work of others and gives them credit, this goes a long way. An excellent leader will also always take responsibility for mistakes under their watch.
Empathy is not new
Historically, empathy has been a skill exemplified by great leaders. For generations, we’ve been stuck to one cultural idea of business – production, and profit. Little was considered when it came to employees and their quality of life. The shift now is about investing in employees and making them a priority. Content self-motivated employees continue to innovate, stay satisfied in their positions, and can be overjoyed to produce the best possible product or service projects they can for customers. Your leadership can inspire all these things and more. And that starts with you. The bottom line is this: when you take care of your employees, they will surely take care of your customers.
If you need ideas on how to reach a better empathetic understanding of your leadership style, read about the movement in my book Give a Damn! The Ticket to Cultural Change, visit www.marklewisllc.com to learn about my premium interview tool for finding and retaining the best talent, The Unthinkable Approach to Hiring, and how business coaches can teach the ideas in this article using my CEO Playbook: Round Table Discussion Leadership Course.