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17 Aug How Empathy Makes You A Better Leader

Let’s try out a little magic trick.

Before you continue reading, I’d like you to think of three jobs that will employ the most people in the near future.


Great! Now I’m going to use magic to read your mind and tell you some of the jobs you put on your list.

(Give me a second here while I invoke my magical powers…)

Here it goes. Your list contains at least one of these three jobs: programmers, coders, and website designers.


(Cue applause)

All jokes aside, almost everyone I ask answers the same way. It’s obvious that technology is reshaping the workplace, and that tech-based jobs like these are becoming more and more prevalent.

But those aren’t the only jobs that are growing.

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labour, the following jobs will employ over 20% of the American population by 2020.

  • Sports Coaches and Fitness Trainers
  • Massage Therapists
  • Registered Nurses
  • Physical Therapists
  • School Psychologists
  • Music Tutors
  • Preschool Teachers
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • Personal Financial Planners
  • Chauffeurs
  • Private Detectives

After looking at that list, George Anders, a world-renowned business journalist who writes for Forbes Magazine, came to a resounding conclusion: empathy is the number one job skill we’ll need as we move into 2020.

What is empathy anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of others”.

In other words, empathy is all about being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes.

All these jobs require a great deal of empathy. School psychologists, for instance, have to be able to put themselves in their students’ shoes in order to help them out. Similarly, personal financial planners need to be able to empathize with their clients if they are to help them invest appropriately.

That’s why, despite the undeniable advance of technology, the one skill we should start working on if we want to have jobs in the future is empathy.

The Benefits Of Empathy

Empathy allows you to:

  • Better understand the needs of people around you;
  • Make better connections with people;
  • Resolve conflict more effectively;
  • Learn how to motivate the people around you;
  • Better understand how people view your actions;
  • Read people more easily, and predict how they will act or react;
  • Learn from other people’s experiences
  • These are just some of the reasons why empathy can help you become a better manager, peer, and even partner and friend.

Empathy is an important part of leadership

The biggest takeaway is empathy is by far one of the most important characteristics of a good leader.

Being able to see things from another’s perspective (be it personally or professionally) will give you great insight into their lives and their daily tasks, allowing you to better understand who they are and what they do.

It will help you build stronger personal and professional bonds with your employees, which improves morale. The happier and more comfortable your employees are at work, the harder they’ll work for you.

According to a recent study conducted by a group of economists at the University of Warwick in the UK, happy employees are better employees. The study found that happiness can lead to a 12% growth in productivity.

This improved productivity and improved quality of life for employees make it clear that now is the time to start becoming a more empathetic leader.

How To Become A More Empathetic Leader

Here are three things you can start practicing to build your empathy muscle…

1. Harness the power of vulnerability

It can be scary to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is often confused with weakness. But I’ve found that each and every time I show my vulnerability, I am rewarded with a deeper connection to the people around me. As a person who thrives on collaboration and connection, I can tap into those relationships and do things I could never have done on my own.

By practicing vulnerability, you’ll begin to create an empathetic work environment, in which you and your team feel comfortable getting to know each other better. That will create a bond that will increase everyone’s productivity.

2. Listen

Taking the time to observe and listen to your employees is the easiest way to improve your empathy skills.

What does their body language say? What are they telling you? What are they actually saying?

Paying attention to these things and showing genuine curiosity about your employees’ lives will allow you to get to know them better. This will help build a stronger bond with them.

3. Practice mindfulness

While you surely have a lot of things on your plate, multitasking can seriously limit your ability to be productive and to connect with people in genuine ways.

That’s why practicing mindfulness is essential to becoming a better (and more empathetic) leader.

Mindfulness is an awareness of the present moment, acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts without judgement. As a practice, pausing to tune-in to the present can have lasting tangible effects on our well-being and our performance.

When you are talking to your employees, make sure that you are actually with them, not thinking about another task. Be aware of the present and try not to get distracted by other things.

It’s in your hands

By practicing these three easy steps you can become a more empathetic person and leader, setting the standard for how things are done in the workplace. This creates space for your employees to do the same.

If this has been lacking, it might take some time for lasting change to occur, but stick with it, in the long run it’s better for everyone.

Creating an empathetic work atmosphere will have a meaningful impact on your team, and I don’t need to use my magic to predict that it will improve your relationships outside of work too.

Make sure you check out 5 Powerful Positive Psychology Hacks To Transform Your Team for some great techniques that you can use to improve your leadrship skills.

Positive Pyschology download

  • Michael Zroback
    Posted at 11:31h, 17 August Reply

    Great article, Dan. I know a few managers who could really benefit from this article. Thank you!

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