How to Lead Your Team with Empathy
Although empathy has been classified as a soft skill for business leaders in the past, companies over the past few years have started to realize the importance of hiring and developing leaders that can move their people forward not only in good times but in bad. To do this, they are realizing that although overlooked in the past, empathy is one of the biggest management skills needed in the workplace today.
Empathy is the ability to understand someone from their perspective. It is when one is able to perceive and relate to the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of those around them. It welcomes you to think about how those you're interacting with may be feeling and the reasoning behind those feelings. This means establishing authentic relationships with the people around you to help enhance performance and company culture in the workplace.
According to a study done by the Center for Creative Leadership, when analyzing data from 6,731 managers in 38 different countries, it was found that empathy in the workplace positively affected job performance. Because empathy is a key part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness, being able to understand the needs of your employees is crucial to their career and personal development within the company. Empathy also allows you to build strong relationships with your coworkers. Being an empathetic leader shows you are willing and able to appreciate what your coworkers are going through and what they can bring to your team. It has also been proven to lead to increased employee retention, higher engagement levels, greater employee satisfaction, and better business results.
Since empathetic leadership can be learned, it is important to determine how to best incorporate this skill into your workplace. If you want to take steps to become the best empathetic leader you can be, then check out our list of the top books on leading with empathy.
1. Leading with Heart: Five Conversations That Unlock Creativity, Purpose, and Results by John Baird and Edward Sullivan
In this new release leadership coaches John Baird and Edward Sullivan share their hundreds of hours of research and firsthand experience of some businesses both big and small and their success with leading with heart. They focus on five major points that can allow anyone to connect authentically and practice empathy with their team which include being aware of people’s needs, understanding people so that you can help them confront their fears, understanding their desires and what drives people, using people’s unique gifts and helping them find those gifts, and connecting with your core sense of purpose and helping others find theirs.
This book does a great job at putting the people in your team first and truly understanding them and their gifts to be able to have your team as a whole succeed. They truly show that leading with heart is about taking off the blinders of fear and ego and connecting as people. This is what leads to breakthroughs not only for ourselves, but also our organizations.
2. Dare to Lead Like a Girl: How to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate Jungle by Dalia Feldheim
Another new release written for both women AND men to learn how to tap into leadership traits that have been deemed as more “feminine” in the past and ultimately achieve purpose. Dalia Feldheim was one of the marketing directors behind the 2014 global Always ad campaign that has been recognized by Forbes as one of the 10 most influential campaigns of the decade. She shares her personal leadership journey after the past two decades backed by research in the world of psychology, business, and mindfulness.
An analysis on why it is important to stop asking women leaders to lead like men and instead start learning what is working for our women leaders and how to tap into those traits. This book is a call to action for all leaders to stop wearing an emotional mask at work and connect more with their more feminine superpowers: be courageous, lead with heart, and Dare to Lead (more) Like a Girl.
3. On Mission: Your Journey to Authentic Leadership by John Buford and Sean Georges JD
This upcoming release is the perfect read to get some fresh, new ideas on how to use a servant leadership model to lead in an authentic way. Former marine officers Sean Georges and John Buford tap into their combined 80 years of leadership experience in military, business, nonprofit, and education to inspire readers to lead authentically in all aspects of their lives.
This book is intended to be transformational and personal in nature, written to change the way aspiring leaders understand and approach leading across the spectrum of their own lives and help them answer the key question, “What is my best and highest role, in support of my teammates, in alignment with our mission?”
4. Leading with Empathy: Understanding the Needs of Today’s Workforce by Gautham Pallapa
Proven to be an essential read for not only managers, executives, and leaders of all types but this book should be on anyone's bookshelf looking to lead with empathy and inspire in the face of adversity. Written by an acclaimed strategist and business leader, Pallapa provides an insightful roadmap filled with stories, anecdotes, exercises, strategies, and actions that will enable leaders to empower their people.
Pallapa focuses on how leaders of society need to weave empathy into their everyday interactions to not only increase productivity but increase employee wellness in the workplace. This book will transform the way you work by rethinking and reimagining existing processes and introducing new innovative strategies.
5. Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura
Perfect for leaders of any level, Michael Ventura shows that when empathy is leveraged as a tool to understand others and yourself it is what your business needs to innovate, nurture a strong internal culture, and produce relevant products for today's consumer and market. This book presents a set of tools and ideas for applying empathy to understanding your customers' needs and improving your products and services, connecting and collaborating with your teams more effectively, and leading with a new awareness for others and your own self.
He drives his points home by staying true to the overarching idea that empathy is not about being nice. It is about having a deep understanding of your consumers, colleagues, and yourself.
6. Inclusive Conversations: Fostering Equity, Empathy, and Belonging Across Differences by Mary-Frances Winters
Being able to lead with empathy requires also being able to understand the experiences of employees, customers, community members, and diverse suppliers. Because of this we feel it is crucial to include Inclusive Conversations by Mary-Frances Winters on our list of books that can help you lead your team with empathy. Written by award-winning diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, Winters holds effective dialogue across different dimensions of diversity, such as race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation.
Winters focuses on our collective responsibility to earnestly address our differences and how increasing understanding and empathy will not only enhance organizational goals but will also lead to a healthier, kinder, and more compassionate world. This book not only shows the urgency and need for bold, inclusive conversations but also lays out specific strategies and practices to turn her theory into practice.
Furious customers? Missed deadlines? Failed products? Maria Ross shows you how the problems your business is facing may stem from a single issue: lack of empathy. She is a brand strategist who for many years has looked into empathy and its relation to business success.
Ross shows you how seeing a situation from someone else's point of view, and using that to shape your leadership style, workplace culture, and brand strategy will drive proven results. Not only does this book lay out how leaders can take steps to become more empathetic, but it also discusses how by making empathy a goal in your organization it will affect your clients in a positive way. Empathy breeds loyalty amongst clients and employees. With traits and habits easily laid out, Ross makes it easy for leaders to cultivate more empathy now.
8. Dare to Lead: Bold Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. By Brené Brown
A #1 New York Time's bestseller, Dare to Lead is still considered as one of the most essential reads for someone looking to lead their team with more compassion and empathy. Brené Brown has spent the past two decades studying the emotions and experiences that give meaning to our lives, and the past seven years working with transformative leaders and teams spanning the globe.
Brown uses research, stories, and examples to answer the questions most leaders have been wondering. How do you cultivate braver, more daring leader, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? There is a focus on how to develop your skills of empathy and connection, while learning that a leader is anyone who is able and willing to recognize the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential. Dare to Lead challenges you to think differently about the components of quality leadership and how empathy and courage play a vital role in it.