Date: May 16, 2022

Author: Katie Carpintero

As a young leader, I was always looking to better understand what made me tick, identify the traits I possessed, and harness them for my own professional growth. In doing so, I like many others, took several tests and performance indicators to know what type of leader I was. Along that journey, I came across the Gallup Strength Finders Assessment, a tool widely used to determine a leader's natural talents to help them perform better in their careers and grow in their personal development. After taking the assessment, I wasn’t surprised, but somewhat disappointed to learn my number one strength was empathy. Empathy, which is defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the action of understanding, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another,” was not exactly the profound leadership quality I was hoping for. I felt immediately like I was less of a leader for being more “sensitive” and instead of feeling encouraged by this strength, I was discouraged by what I thought was a lack of skill as a leader. Fast forward to now, I’ve learned that leadership takes a variety of skill sets. Empathy, which may seem like an odd skill to want to have, is in fact, rather powerful and I would state essential to today's leadership needs.

In a post-pandemic world where leaders are struggling to deal with the new normal, juggling their home life whilst trying to excel in their careers, it's no wonder that a trait like empathy is so valuable. The constant pressure to succeed at everything is mentally overwhelming, leaders today are exhausted but encouraged to do it all and do it all well. 

However, when leading a team, being empathetic to the needs of others is crucial in maintaining a positive work environment and understanding employees are more than just a seat to be filled or a job to get done. A recent study by Catalyst, found that leaders who led with empathy had employees who were more innovative, more engaged, more inclusive, and had a better work-life balance. This led to higher levels of retention. The Forbes article, “Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill,” says, “When people felt their leaders were more empathetic, 86% reported they are able to navigate the demands of their work and life—successfully juggling their personal, family, and work obligations.” 

During a time when the great resignation is at an all-time high, employees are looking to their leaders to determine if this career is a good fit for them or not. They are looking for more than a paycheck and professional growth, they want to feel valued. Leaders today need empathy to understand the needs of their employees, to come alongside them, and make them feel seen and heard. 

It goes without saying, working for a leader who is cognizant of another person's needs, is powerful, not only does it make an individual feel valued, it also empowers them to do their job better. In LeaderImpact we seek to equip leaders personally, professionally, and spiritually for greater impact- I believe empathy is a leadership trait that greatly inhabits all three of these areas. In the new LeaderImpact podcast featuring Darci Lang, an entrepreneur, author, and inspiration speaker, Lang says, “kind leaders will change the world.,” Lang emphasizes that today, we can choose for who we work for, and the next generation of leaders want to work for kind leaders; leaders who make a difference. As lang says, “haven’t we all worked for un-kind leaders?”. Today, I challenge you to look to your empathetic side of leadership and the needs of those around you. You have the ability to be a leader others look up to; challenge yourself to be  an empathetic leader recognized for their kindness and impact in the lives of others.

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