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Ivan Popov

i was once an athlete. then a journalist. now i am a ceo of an iT company. still running marathons though.

In Leadership, Empathy Is In the Top 3 Soft Skills

empathy is a key feature in emotional intelligence

Today we take on a slightly different approach when it comes to leadership – once we’ve mastered the hard skills, it’s time we focus on the soft ones as well.

I assume I have the confidence to talk about leadership – throughout the years I’ve managed to gather quite some experience in leading teams. Whether I’ll refer to my past jobs as a technical team leader or my current one as s CEO of a WordPress development agency, I’ve done the paperwork.

Surely, the majority of entrepreneurs tend to talk about leadership mainly focused on the set of hard skills one should implement. And while they represent a crucial part of successful management, there’s actually so much more to it in reality.

Much like in anything else, soft skills are equally important in leadership too. After all, we’re talking about daily communication with other human beings – there’s no doubt that a certain set of soft skills must be present at all costs all the time.

How do soft skills manage to enrich leadership anyway?

I once met with a friend who back then worked in a major corporation that generously appreciated the typical company hierarchy and environment. You know the drill – support agents, team leaders, management, upper management, CTOs, CEOs, etc.

He shared a story about a manager who was exceptional at executing all the work tasks and duties but lacked crucial soft skills that would have helped him maintain dazzling communication with his team. See, being a professional business-wise is definitely a must, but there’s so much more beyond that. The ability to have decent and well-thought conversations, to express interest in what the other person’s saying, to show eagerness and readiness to assist in any way is what actually turns a professional team leader into a successful one.

Soft skills, such as communication, active listening, patience, expressing interest, asking the appropriate questions, offering a helping hand, empathy, a good understanding of human psychology, and acknowledging the importance of mental health are actually going to help you win the “Leader of the year” award.

If we focus on empathy, we’ll acknowledge that no leadership is going to be successful without it

conversations are important

Empathy is a tricky field in psychology.

Many people claim that they understand it and implement it quite well, but is that the case in reality? In order to answer this question properly, we possibly should focus on what empathy actually represents.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. While this sounds like a piece of cake, in reality, it’s much harder when it comes to relating to someone if the topic in question doesn’t particularly resonate with you. But it’s a skill worth learning and implementing – I’m pretty sure everyone out there wants to feel understood, supported, and taken into account.

  • when we refer to cognitive empathy, we talk about the skill of knowing how’s someone supposed to feel and honor their right to do so; it’s a set of theoretical knowledge – you know what’s appropriate and what’s not, you are aware of what you’re supposed to say and what not;
  • emotional empathy refers to actually putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and really feeling what they are expressing they are feeling; of course, this level of emotional maturity and intelligence is quite high but, at the end of the day, it certainly helps a leader establish themselves way better in the team;

I guess we all can agree that leadership is not just about bossing around and giving away tasks and schedules. Sure, all those actions represent the managing and work-related aspects of the job. But, by all means, there’s so much more to it.

A huge part of the leader’s duties is to communicate with their team and make sure everyone feels all right not only when it comes to work, but when it comes to mental health and feeling adequately at the office.

Always use the power of empathy when in 1:1s

I’ve discussed the power of the 1:1 kinds of meetings along with some crucial aspects of implementing important soft skills.

Never forget to frequently engage with your employees in conversations. But what’s even more important is not to forget to go outside of the work-related topics as well. By showing interest in their general well-being, you most definitely manage to strengthen the bond between you and the employee.

Regardless of the topic, always implement the power of empathy. Expressing interest and acknowledging how the other person is feeling is a crucial aspect of leadership. Don’t forget to also express readiness and willingness to help out the employee – sure, understatement is great but it rarely actually solves someone else’s problem or issue.

  • when someone seems down or having the blues, don’t forget to ask questions and try to reach the source of those emotions
  • make sure your team members feel relaxed and confident to talk to you openly and honestly
  • when you face a certain issue, try your best to solve it and offer some useful advice and guidance
  • never forget to check back with the employee at some point later on
  • also share some of your experiences and thoughts as a starting point
  • make sure you show your team members that work is important, but not on behalf of burnout – they will definitely appreciate it

The bottom line

You get the point – the list could go on and on. Expressing empathy in leadership is a great way for you to establish yourself as a concerned leader who deeply values the team and each individual member. My advice is to always try to upgrade and boost your emotional intelligence since this will surely turn you into a better and more trustworthy leader.



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