Emotional Intelligence and Empathy in Leadership 0

EMOTIONAL-Intelligence-and-EMPATHY-IN-LEADERSHIP
Empathetic leadership is the ability to recognize the needs of others, and being mindful of others’ feelings and thoughts. An empathetic leader is a leader who doesn’t look at the feelings or thoughts of others to agree or disagree with, it's more of an opportunity for others to express themselves

The very essence of leadership is to recognize the needs of others and influence others in a positive and inspiring way, which is why Empathy and Emotional Quotient go hand-in-hand. In this article, we explore the importance of practising empathetic leadership and enhancing emotional intelligence for effective leadership.

Why are we talking about empathetic leadership now? 

The pandemic and continuous work from home have got most of us under emotional turmoil due to which emotional challenges have spiked. The balance between our personal & professional life is fading and our professional & personal time is overlapping. With this change, our professional emotions are taking a toll on our personal emotions and vice-versa. ‘Me Time/Self Time’ is slowly fading away with our continuous professional & personal priorities. Employees are under the most pressure, they are worried about catching the virus, the demands of working from home, managing their emotions, and the risks of role/job redundancy. This has an overall impact on the individual’s well-being, which further deteriorates the performance of an individual & organization.

Regrettably, empathetic leadership has long been overlooked, however, the Covid-19 situation has forced leaders to adopt strategies, practice & focus on elevating their leadership empathy thus embracing an empathetic leadership style.

Emotional Intelligence & Empathetic Leadership

For a leader to be an empathetic leader, one needs to have a high emotional quotient. Emotional Quotient/Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively. All of us have been recruited into our organizations, largely on the basis of our IQ. However, the importance of EQ increases as you move up the organization. At senior and top levels, as high as 90 per cent of your success flows from EQ and research shows that EQ is twice as important as domain skills, functional skills and IQ. EQ/Emotional Intelligence competencies are not inborn competencies; they are learned competencies. There are four components of emotional intelligence at work. Two of these are intrapersonal components and two are interpersonal. Thus, the four components are self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills.

EQ/Emotional Intelligence competencies are not inborn competencies; they are learned competencies. There are four components of emotional intelligence at work. Two of these are intrapersonal components and two are interpersonal. Thus, the four components are self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills.

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Let’s enrich our understanding of these four components.

Self-Awareness – It is the capacity of individuals to do self-reflection and monitor themselves. When we self-reflect, we are aware of our feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Individuals with high self-reflection are able to focus on themselves, observe themselves and take a third perspective on their feelings, emotions, and thought processes. One should be able to answer these questions: How do people experience you? How do people experience themselves when they are with you?

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Self-Management – It is how we manage our emotions. How do we deal with distress and our draining emotions? Are we able to think well even when things are not going our way? Can we stay focused and motivated?

Empathy – It refers to the ability to understand how others are thinking about the situation. Do we know how they feel? Do we care? Are we concerned? Are we interested? Do we want to help? When empathy is missing, leaders don’t listen and are not able to get in touch with people anymore. They don’t recognize or appreciate differences and diversity of opinion. On the other hand, leaders with highly developed empathy are able to get into other’s shoes. One can further classify empathy into three more components:

Cognitive Empathy: It is the ability to understand a person’s current state of mind and emotions. It is the form of empathy that helps improve communications, as it boosts your ability to relay information.

Emotional Empathy: It is the ability to share someone else’s feelings. It is important for building emotional connections with people, thus improving your ability to relate to their current situations.

Compassionate Empathy: It is a step beyond the former two, although their significance can’t possibly be diminished as well. Also known as “empathic concern,” compassionate empathy is what moves you to take action and provide help to someone in need.

Social Skills – It refers to proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. It is an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Can we inspire people, motivate them to pursue a shared mission? Can we build strong team bonds? Can we maintain personal friendships amongst work associates? Articulate and arouse enthusiasm for shared goals?

For employees, how a leader makes them feel plays a large role in their careers and hence a positive employee experience will play a very important role in any organization’s success. As these are learned competencies, the key to learning is – you must be able to use your emotions to make constructive decisions about your behaviour. When you become overly stressed, you can lose control of your emotions and the ability to act thoughtfully and appropriately. Leaders can develop and enhance their skills through coaching, training, or developmental opportunities and initiatives.

The journey of enhancing your emotional intelligence will need one to have:

  1. Strong self-motivation, intention and commitment to undo old habits at the brain level & rehearse new habits
  2. Tapping into your emotions
  3. Paying attention to your body
  4. Observing how your emotions and behaviour are connected
  5. Practising new behaviour till it becomes your natural behaviour
  6. You should give time, attention and focus, as this involves unlearning and relearning
Cognitive Empathy is the ability to understand a person’s current state of mind and emotions. It is the form of empathy that helps improve communications, as it boosts your ability to relay information. Click To Tweet

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Practising Empathetic Leadership

Being emotionally intelligent helps one to practice & serve as an empathetic leader. Focusing on empathy and having an empathetic view helps one to practice empathetic leadership, not in isolation though. A few tips to improve empathy are: • Form a personal relationship • Be a better listener, listen intently to show that you care • Try putting yourself in other’s shoes • Practice compassion

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Let’s look at a role play:

ROLE PLAY 1:

Manager (Rahul): Hi Rohit, how are you?

Employee (Rohit): Hi Rahul, I am okay, how are you?

Rahul: I am well, thank you. Please help me with the status update on our project.

Rohit: Sure…

ROLE PLAY 2:

Manager (Rahul): Hi Rohit, how are you?

Employee (Rohit): Hi Rahul, I am okay, how are you?

Rahul: I am well, thank you. You are just okay… hope all is well?

Rohit: Last week was a difficult week Rahul…

Rahul: hmm… hope you are comfortable sharing… what happened?

Rohit: hmm… sure… work from home is challenging… I get anxious frequently these days… FOMO… etc.

Rahul: hmm.. why is that so… how can we help you… and the story continues…

Rohit: Thank you Rahul for your time, support and advice, it’s helpful. You reached out to me for something, please let me know how I can help you…

Rahul: Yes, nothing urgent, I was hoping if you would have an update on our project…

Rohit: Sure…

In the above two role plays, in the second case, the employee is more comfortable and more engaged and in the first role play, he may be thinking that his manager/leader is least bothered about him/her.

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How Does Empathetic Leadership Help?

Empathetic leadership drives benefits for both the organization and employees:

  • Improves employees health & wellness
  • Improves employee engagement
  • Improves productivity
  • Boosts organizational growth
  • Makes collaboration easier
  • Increases diversity
  • Builds a physiological safe environment

What Next?

Empathetic leadership at its core is when a leader is leading from a position in which they are able to understand the needs of others. It means that they become aware of the feelings and the thinking of their workforce and those they lead.

Focusing now on building more empathetic leaders will ultimately help organizations to increase employee engagement and boost organizational growth. The organization’s endeavour will be to have more empathetic leaders that lead them to success in difficult times.

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Rahul Anandani Narayan is an emerging HR professional with a decade of experience across various industries. He is a Senior Manager HRBP at DBS Bank (DBS Asia Hub 2). Prior he has worked with reputed organizations like – Bank of America, CA Technologies and Deloitte. He is extremely passionate about solving problems and building organizations for scale. His areas of expertise include HR Transformation, Business Partnering, Talent Analytics, Compensation & Benefits and Organization Design & Development.

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