Empathy is the most easily recognized dimension of emotional intelligence. It is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. For a leader, empathy means thoughtfully considering other employees feelings in the process of making intelligent decisions (among other factors). Goleman notes that there are three types of empathy:
- Cognitive Empathy– This involves understanding how the other people think, and expressing things in a way that impact on people.
- Emotional Empathy-This is an unconscious ability, and ” is about feeling with…it has to do with a brain system called mirror nuerons which tune into the person we’re with and activate in our brain what they’re feeling, what they’re doing, what they’re intending”
- Empathatic Concern– Leaders who possess this actually care and facilitate their employees to be the best they can be.
Empathy is a particularly important component of leadership today. Why?
Increasing use of teams– Empathy allows leaders to understand a team’s emotional makeup. In teams a team leader must be able to sense and understand everyones’ viewpoints. They will listen to everyone in the group – what frustrates them, how they rate their colleagues, and whether they felt they had been ignored. Leaders must be able to direct the team in a way that brings them together, hence encouraging people to speak more openly about their frustrations, raise complaints during meetings.
Globalisation- Cross Cultural dialogue can easily lead to misunderstandings, and miscues. Leaders who have empathy are more attuned to subtleties’ in body language and can hear the message behind the words being spoken. Beyond that they have a deep understanding of both the existence and the importance of cultural and ethnic differences
Retention of talent- Leaders need empathy to develop and keep good people – when good people leave they take the company knowledge with them.
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