3 Reasons Leaders Need To Be Empathy Conscious and Competent

When introducing evidence-based practice concepts to students for the first time, I always enjoyed sharing examples of how long it can take between the time a test or intervention is known to be effective and when it actually becomes routinely recommended and used. That lag in recognition and implementation applies to even critical conditions, like thrombolytic therapy for patients with myocardial infarction; it took literally decades before it was recommended in medical texts as a standard treatment. Unfortunately, a lot of people died in the meantime.

It seems that empathy and it’s importance to effective leadership is a lot like that.  In 2004, Daniel Goleman listed 3 reasons why empathy is critical for leaders today more than ever in his HBR article entitled “What Makes A Leader” and there has been a lot of research published since.

Leaders still skeptical about S+EI may not care that empathy is the cornerstone of S+EI. Regardless, here are 3 other reasons why empathy as a component of leadership is more important today than ever and why every leader should care:

  • Increased use of Teams- While it’s obvious people comprise these, the other obvious is often overlooked: in order to successfully move forward, the kaleidoscope of emotions have to be led and aligned.
  • Pace of globalization (and diversity)- It’s easy to mis-step and miscommunicate in cross-culture dialogue. However, empathy is both a contagion and universal to which there is no language barrier
  • Need to retain top talent- We live in the information age, knowledge workers with high levels of S+EI are at a premium, and they prefer to read a Dilbert cartoon vs. living in one.  When properly coached and mentored by a resonant leader, these key assets not only perform better but experience more job satisfaction and stay put longer.

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Ten years have passed since Dan listed these three reasons and what have we observed? The use of effective teams is more critical than ever, globalization has increased exponentially, and the need to retain top talent is one of the major concerns of any organization (and can be extremely costly if they don’t). Those are in addition to the fact that the business case for S+EI has also been clearly established.

Now that the corner stone of S+EI is understood, the business case has been made, it’s time to discuss the 4 main categories of S+EI and that’s coming up.

In the meantime, how is the cornerstone of your S+EI serving you?  What do you need more of? What do you need less of?