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Be An Empathetic Leader Who Is Trustworthy And Respectable

Empathy alone isn't enough in leadership so don't just be an empathetic leader- be an empathetic leader who is trustworthy and respectable.

Importance of Empathy

Empathy is undoubtedly a critical skill for leaders as it is evident in driving significant business results. Empathy tops the list of what leaders must have and needs to get right as demonstrating empathy is positive for people, which will ultimately spur more innovation, enhance engagement, improve retention, foster cooperation at work and promote mental health.

Mental Health Issues

The key reason empathy is absolutely necessary is that more people today are experiencing mental health issues.

The following results are from a global study undertaken by Qualtrics:-

1. 67% are experiencing increases in stress

2. 57% have increased anxiety

3. 54% are emotionally exhausted

4. 53% are sad

5. 50% are irritable

6. 42% have experienced a decline in mental health

7. 28% are having trouble concentrating

8. 20% are taking longer to finish tasks

9. 15% are having trouble thinking

10. 12% are challenged to juggle their responsibilities

From the above, it is crucial for leaders to play a key role in improving the overall mental health of their people. After all, once your people are taken care of, they’ll in turn take care of your business.

Story Time

I remember working with a leader who is highly empathetic and kind. This leader is genuinely empathetic and is able to easily connect with everyone. This leader did everything expected of an empathetic leader and yet, business performance was poor, infighting was rampant, people were disgruntled, staff turnover was high etc.

As an empathetic leader, almost everything was done right. Yes, almost. What was missing was the alignment in the leader’s words and actions. In this case, it was non-alignment.

An example comes to mind. A collective decision was made by the leader together with the senior management team. Everyone was in agreement and committed to pursue the decision and all deliverables stemming from that decision. After extensive planning by the senior management team, the final action plan was approved by the leader before it was communicated to the rest of the organisation for implementation. Not long after successful rollout, the leader would request for certain changes to be made. Reason? The leader had received feedback from an external stakeholder (the senior management team opined that it was for that person’s own gain) and agreed to make changes. It was no easy feat as systems and processes had to be altered to enable these changes.

There could be many reasons for the leader requesting the change. Perhaps the leader was being flexible and accommodating towards the external stakeholder. Perhaps it was the leader’s way of managing the stakeholder. Perhaps the leader agreed to the request to gain leverage on the stakeholder. Perhaps the changes were necessary to improve the end result.

Unfortunately, it was a frequent occurrence (making U-turns on decisions) and it is no surprise that over time the business performance suffered as people were confused, unhappy etc.


Empathy does contribute to positive relationships and organisational cultures, and it also drives results. However, empathy alone isn’t enough.

Alignment in a leader’s words and actions is important to establish trust. Trust in turn creates respect. Together, both trust and respect will help drive commitment and performance of people. It’s the rocket fuel that will fire up the people to achieve success for the organisation.

Don’t just be an empathetic leader. Be an empathetic leader who is trustworthy and respectable.


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