Our effectiveness and impact as a leader is directly tied to our ability to experience empathy. Whether your leadership is in your home, your place of work, your church, your peers, or anywhere… you will only be able to inspire and influence to the degree that we can feel what other people feel. And while empathy comes easier to some than others, I am also convinced that empathy can be learned. But nothing is learned if it’s not valued.
Leadership without empathy is only a position on an organizational chart. And hierarchical influence is the worst type, but also the easiest to practice. “Because I said so” is terrible leadership. Empathy is relational leadership and your influence will grow to the degree of your shared feelings with someone.
The work “empathy” comes from two Greek words; “en” is translated “in” and “pathos” is translated “feeling or suffering”. What an awesome and powerful word picture! To practice empathy is to be in someone’s feelings or to be in someone’s suffering.
Empathy enables us to see something from someone else’s perspective, which gives us a common starting place to move forward. Empathy prevents judgments and self-centered stereotypes. Empathy stops us from assuming or projecting someone else’s motives. Empathy builds team momentum and direction. Empathy prevents the dangers from an “us and them” mentality. Empathy propels all of us toward generosity and service.
Being in someone’s feelings inspires other-centered actions and words. If empathy is harder for you than others, if emotion is often distant or irrelevant in your thought process, how can you grow empathy?