The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) recently identified empathy, a component of emotional intelligence, as critical to the most effective leadership, particularly during this very stressful time when leaders must depend so much on others to help their organizations survive and prosper. Engaged employees are more productive and positively impact organizational profitability, but the researchers who published Closing the Engagement Gap, found only one-fifth of the global workforce fully engaged. And those disengaged employees can become a liability.
CCL researchers have established that a leader’s empathy in the workplace is positively correlated with the job performance of his/her employees . And managers who show more empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses. Empathy is a core component of emotional intelligence — signaling the ability to put oneself “in the shoes” of someone else.
These findings correlate with the Harvard Business Review’s recent article on the importance of managers adding emotional intelligence skills to their analytical skills. What that means as a practical matter is noticing and attending compassionately to the needs, fears, and concerns of those whom leaders are trying to lead. Those skills are usually different from the skills used to solve pressing business and financial problems. Because these different skill sets come from engaging different parts of our brain — parts that usually can’t both be operational at the same time, it is imperative to learn how to toggle between those two mindsets as appropriate so that we don’t get stuck in either.
For many leaders — particularly those with well-established financial and analytic abilities, the best advice is to take opportunities to exercise that other portion of the brain that can also improve your organization’s engagement, productivity and profits. Establish a caring personal connection with those you are responsible for leading and learn the cues that tell you who needs more support and what it is they need. This is not a matter of being a “soft” leader, but of being a leader who values and learns from the full range of experience that your employees are having.