Most business leaders understand the importance of fostering an equitable and inclusive workplace, but doing so can be difficult. It’s important that leaders be trained in inclusive strategies, but there’s one critical trait that is needed to be truly successful in this regard: empathy. The ability to put oneself in the place of another person might not seem all too important to the bottom line, but leaders who are empathetic are more effective at leading their team than those who are not. Everyone’s levels of empathy are different, but that doesn’t mean they are static. Leaders should be encouraged to develop their empathy, and there are many tactics available to do so. First, simply listen. Research shows that listening to people from diverse walks of life can impact levels of empathy. Companies should create opportunities for leadership to engage in dialogue with people who are not their peers in a non-threatening way. Slowing down also helps. Many people are encouraged to multitask in their workplace; but slowing down and taking each task as it comes can help a leader to not be so wrapped up in their own experiences that they fail to recognize the validity of the experiences of those around them. Curiosity is also an important component of empathy. By being curious about other people’s experiences and asking questions, leaders can place more value on experiences that aren’t their own.
The Empathetic Leader