Empathetic Leaders
Connecting with People

Why do we sometimes find that we are not believed to be as empathetic as we feel we are?  I think there are a number of causes, which are: not knowing what empathy really means, not being interested in developing the skills or choosing to only do it with some people.

I recently worked with a client who did not enjoy managing up, they did not feel it was genuine.  Their senior management were quite different and so it seemed easier for themto avoid them.  This was a mistake.  It is essential that you are able to connect with your senior management, and peers as well as your team.  We worked out what was holding them back.  As they were so good at connecting with other people, it was possible to apply what he was already good at to the job of connecting with Senior Management.

This is not an unusual situation.


People like People like them

Typically we are comfortable with people who are like us.  Connecting with people who share our motivations and values is easier than working with people who have a different perspectives.  If you want to be a great leader you need to embrace diversity.  You need to be able to connect with people at all levels, with different perspectives and experiences.  This is what separates a great leader from an average leader.

I have 3 thoughts that can have a big impact on your ability to connect with anyone:

Suspend judgment:

Avoid judging people who are different, don’t label them or create stories about who they are or what they do.  This may mean that you assume they won’t be able to or interested in doing something.  You may then adapt the way you work with them. This is likely to be something you do unconsciously and it can seriously impact your ability to connect with the person.  Find out who they are. Ask them: what motivates them? What gets them excited?

Don’t make assumptions:

Don’t make assumption about someone’s behaviour.  The reason someone might appear to be lacking in motivation might not be directly related to the work.  Ask questions, find out what is happening with them, what can you do to help?

Be Curious:

Really try to understand where someone is.  It is an essential part of empathy.  What are they saying, don’t listen intending to reply, listen with deep attention and curiosity.


When I coach leaders or hold leadership workshops, the transformation begins once the leader acknowledges their part in the problem. We then explore the “cost” to them and what it would take to change their behaviours.  I often find that this is not about new behaviours or skills, but a reminder to my client to consciously use skills that they have gained but lose when pressure of the job takes over.


As a leader you need to develop your self-awareness. so that your understand your impact, spend time with your colleagues, be present and in the moment. 

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