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Empathy is no.1 skill for leaders, say studies.

Posted on 17th November 2021

New studies have revealed that the leadership skill that drives the most positive business results is empathy.

The Effects of Stress

The first study, by Qualtrics, sheds light on why empathy is so necessary. In the wake of the pandemic, it says 42% of people have suffered a decline in mental health. Here’s how that breaks down:

Increased stress: 67%

Increased anxiety: 57%

Emotionally exhausted: 54%

Sad: 53%

Irritable: 50%

Having trouble concentrating: 28%

Taking longer to finish tasks: 20%

Having trouble thinking: 15%

Having trouble juggling responsibilities: 12%

But the study also found that when leaders were seen as more empathetic, employees reported better mental health.

Conversely, a new study out of Georgetown University has found that when people are on the receiving end of rudeness at work, it impacts performance, collaboration, customer experience and employee turnover--and that rudeness at work is on the rise.

 

The Benefits of Empathy

A study by Catalyst found that empathy had a wide range of positive impacts. Employees who said their leaders were empathetic reported dramatically different experiences at work versus those who found their leaders less empathetic.

Innovation: 61% of employees with empathetic leaders felt able to be innovative, versus 13% without.

Engagement: 76% with empathetic leaders felt engaged, versus 32% without.

Retention: 57% of white women and 62% of women of colour were unlikely to think of leaving companies with empathetic leaders, versus 14% and 30% without.

Inclusivity. 50% of those with empathetic leaders said their workplace was inclusive, versus 17% without.

Work-Life Balance: 86% with empathetic leaders were happy with their work-life balance, versus 60% without.

A study published in Evolutionary Biology also found that empathy in decision making increased cooperation and empathy in others.

 

Leading with Empathy

Leaders need to ask themselves what employees are thinking and feeling, express concerns and ask about challenges directly, and then listen to employees’ responses. It’s also worth educating leaders about the mental health resources the company provides, so they can point people in the right direction.

It’s important to show behaviour that’s congruent with your words and to offer practical help rather than just talking. People will remember how you made them feel more than what you said.

Empathy not only contributes to good relationships and a positive culture, it also drives better results. The new research makes it clear that empathy is the most important leadership competency to develop for the future of work.