Empathetic Leadership

Empathetic Leadership
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Nowadays, teamwork, collaboration, and interdependence are necessary, meaning that it’s very important to have a good leader. However, we’re not talking about just any kind of leader. Companies demand that people capable of leadership, particularly empathetic leadership, occupy positions with great responsibility.

But how exactly does empathetic leadership differ from other kinds of leadership? Can we learn to lead this way or is it something we’re born with? In today’s article, we’ll answer these questions.

What does empathetic leadership consist of?

Leadership is the ability to manage a group of people or an organization. A leader must establish a clear vision of goals to achieve. They must also motivate the team members to work on that common goal, while also resolving internal conflicts between different group members.

People following empathetic leadership.

However, although all leaders have these characteristics in common, there are different types of leadership. Some of them involve acting by putting personal benefit ahead of group needs. Others use manipulative tactics, while others act arrogantly and narcissistically.

On the other hand, a person who practices empathetic leadership is able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. Empathetic leaders also try to understand the market’s needs, as well as the consumers’. By doing this, they’re able to give each client exactly what they need.

An empathetic leader can communicate effectively with the rest of the team and tell them what’s needed. They’re able to communicate in a way that leaves them wanting to do the work. The team members should feel as if the company or group’s goals are their own. 

How do you develop empathetic leadership?

According to research, a person who wants to become an empathetic leader should develop five main skills: empathy, enthusiasm, warmth, serenity, and the ability to set limits. Let’s take a look at each of these individually.

1. Empathy

It’s clear that an empathetic leader must be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes. However, empathy doesn’t simply consist of understanding what another person is thinking at a rational level. Someone who wants to develop their empathetic leadership skills will have to understand how an action will affect each member of their team.

For many people, this ability to put themselves in another’s shoes won’t come easy. However, the latest research shows that it’s perfectly possible for most people to develop empathy. 

Empathic leadership.

2. Enthusiasm

A good empathetic leader is capable of motivating and inspiring the rest of their team. This is because their way of leading has nothing to do with forcing their colleagues to complete their tasks. Rather, a good leader uses their ability to inspire and motivate to make people feel this way.

To achieve this, a person who possesses empathetic leadership skills is able to put energy and passion into what they say, propose, and do. They do this in such a way that they’re role models for their colleagues. 

3. Warmth

As this type of leader is able to put themselves in another person’s shoes, they’re also able to provide solutions. When they provide solutions, they’re sensitive, fair, and also attuned to people’s individual circumstances.

This doesn’t mean that they go to work to make friends. Rather, they’re extremely cordial and know that it takes a warm person to establish relationships with colleagues. This closeness places the leader in a privileged place to reinforce the type of positive attitudes that should influence a group.

4. Serenity

The empathetic leader must be able to remain calm in complicated, emotional, or stressful situations. In order to effectively lead their team, they have to become an example for them. Therefore, if they let them see their impulsive side, they can lose their employees’ respect.

People at work.

5. Ability to establish limits

The last skill that a person who wants to be an empathetic leader needs to master is the ability to establish personal and professional limits. Although they’re able to understand the rest of their team members, a good empathetic leader must know how to insert themselves and maintain distance when necessary.

Otherwise, the leader won’t seem to be the leader anymore. The group members will start seeing them as one of them and the leader will lose respect. Therefore, a person who wants to develop empathetic leadership needs to be good at communicating with assertiveness. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Mahsud, R., Prussia, G., & Yukl, G. (2010). Leader empathy, ethical leadership, and relationsoriented behaviors as antecedents of leadermember exchange quality. Journal of Managerial Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1108/02683941011056932
  • Kellett, J. B., Humphrey, R. H., & Sleeth, R. G. (2002). Empathy and complex task performance: Two routes to leadership. Leadership Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(02)00142-X
  • Wolff, S. B., Pescosolido, A. T., & Druskat, V. U. (2002). Emotional intelligence as the basis of leadership emergence in self-managing teams. Leadership Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(02)00141-8

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.