How Leadership Coaching Can Help Build Empathy

May 26, 2022

offering a comforting hand

Overview: Empathy is an essential, outer-core intelligent leadership competency. Empathy allows leaders to lead instead of bossing people around. It lets intelligent leaders inspire and empower their employees while building trust.  

Empathy is a core element of emotional leadership. To be empathetic means to be able to experience life vicariously through the eyes, thoughts, and emotions of others. 

Emotionally intelligent people recognize other people’s emotions. Empathetic people can trigger similar emotions in themselves, mirroring someone else’s emotional state. 

Empathy helps leaders understand, engage, motivate, and empower their employees. There can be no intelligent, compassionate leadership without empathy. 

Empathy Is Not Sympathy

When people feel sympathy for others, they pity them. While pity represents an emotional connection, it’s a limited one with a distance-keeping mechanism baked into it. 

Empathy does not keep distance. It represents complete identification with another person’s feelings, emotions, biases, and perceptions. 

Leadership Coaching Can Help Develop Empathy

Some people bring up empathetic children. Not everyone grows up to be an empathic adult, however. Fortunately, like most other leadership behaviors, empathy is learnable and teachable. 

Intelligent leaders practice compassionate leadership to ensure those with whom they communicate don’t just listen to them but hear and understand them. 

Empathy breeds trust, the cornerstone of meaningful relationships and effective networking. 

Leadership coaching professionals understand the value of compassionate leadership and know how to encourage leaders to adopt behaviors that facilitate and require empathy. 

The Power of Active Listening

We tend to speak more than we listen. A natural human urge pushes us to be overzealous in expressing ourselves and trying to make others understand what we communicate. 

Leadership coaching teaches leaders to overcome this urge and focus on active listening instead. Active listening shows empathy because it portrays a genuine interest in understanding a conversation partner. Executive coaching professionals encourage their students to: 

  • Get rid of distractions. Active listening requires your undivided attention. Don’t let emails, push notifications, and phone calls interrupt your conversations. 
  • Refrain from cutting to the chase. Not everyone can express themselves quickly and efficiently. Some people take longer to get their points across than others. Let your conversation partners finish their thoughts and don’t interrupt them.
  • Ask relevant questions. Questions prompt answers that trigger thought and problem solving. By asking relevant questions, you send the message that you genuinely care while obtaining information that rounds out your understanding of the matter. 
  • Sum up your understanding of things. By summarizing, you lend structure to the information you have processed, making sure you understand it well. Repeat your summary to your interlocutor to communicate you have received and understood the information. 

Showing Vulnerability

Showing vulnerability allows leaders to communicate a valuable message in addition to appearing more human and relatable. By being ready to admit their mistakes and assume responsibility for their actions, leaders tell their reports that it’s safe to follow suit. 

Being vulnerable is not a weakness. 

Leadership vulnerability lays the foundations of an organizational culture of honesty, trust, and empowerment. 

Having understood the predicament of your interlocutor, think of a time when you faced a similar situation. Try to recapture the emotions that the situation elicited in you. Communicate your experience to the other person, then talk about how you dealt with that situation and what you’ve learned from it. 

Eliminating Assumptions

We all like to race ahead and draw conclusions as quickly as possible. This behavior leads to assumptions, and assumptions defeat empathy. 

Leaders cannot be overly eager to show empathy. Rushing empathy comes off as insincere. 

True empathy requires a thorough understanding of facts and situations. Listening instead of assuming is the only path to genuine empathy. This elicits a positive emotional response. 

Empathy is a leadership skill. It is an essential outer-core leadership competency that allows leaders to build trust, empower, inspire, and lead effectively. For intelligent leadership, it is like a breath of fresh air. Executive coaching can help leaders practice the right behaviors to sharpen their emotional leadership skills. 

To learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach, or how you can benefit from bringing IL Solutions to your organization, contact us today

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