There are soft skills and trades leaders need to hone in on or refine, especially now during this time of global unrest. Servant Leadership requires several characteristics that are much needed in our world today – especially empathy.
According to Jim Rowell, from Rising Sun Consultants, “Empathy is the ability to understand and appreciate another person’s perspective and experience, whether you agree or not, and give value to it.”
How do you show empathy, and how does it look?
How do you demonstrate it every day?
How does it benefit you as a leader?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Servant Leadership differs from Traditional Leadership in that it is service-oriented. It places others first. And empathy requires you to invest time and energy into your employees. It’s a call to acknowledge someone else’s journey without seeing it through the lens of your own experiences.
When an employee acts out of character, an empathetic leader says, “Tell me what’s going on and how I can help.”
A more traditional response might be to tell the employee to get their act together, leave them wounded with the whole burden on them, and not try to understand the situation from their perspective.
A servant leader will come alongside to care for the individual that’s having issues. They seek to understand first, and then together (showing empathy) work on a solution to the problem.
HOW DO THEY FEEL?
Ask open-ended questions, and then listen. Avoid sharing your opinions and judgments of what they’re feeling and believing. You should try to ensure others feel validated in what they are sharing with you – don’t laugh or make light of what they’re saying.
Displaying empathy is paying attention. Most people can detect when the person they’re talking to is formulating what they want to say next while only half-listening to them. We’ve all done that. It takes practice and intentionality to develop the skill of fully concentrating on another. Check yourself the next time you talk with someone – are you listening?
One way to keep from losing your thoughts while someone else is speaking, and so you can fully pay attention, is to keep a pad of paper nearby to jot down a word or two. That way, you can talk about it when it’s your turn.
CAN YOU WAIT?
You want to minimize how much you share about your experience as opposed to truly just finding out what another person’s reality is.
Instead of drawing up a bigger and better story than theirs (competing), hold your thoughts for another time. Right now, it’s about them.
People know when you are listening and paying attention by the way you respond, the way you look at them, and the follow-up questions you have for them.
Showing empathy, in this case, means putting yourself and the great things you’ve been through aside to spotlight someone else. All the details people share with you in conversation should be front and center, in your mind, as they finish their thoughts or stories.
WRAPPING IT UP
Empathy is a term for giving your time and energy to listening to another’s perspectives and experiences. It’s about showing others you value and care about them. Developing your listening skills over time will result in better relationships with your employees and people in your personal life.
At this time in our world’s history, when people are nervous about the future, empathy can go a long way toward making sure people in your team feel cared for, and the sense that you have their backs both personally and professionally.