Want to Become a More Empathetic Leader? Start by Doing These 4 Things Consciously!

Friday, 26 August 2022

I read an excellent piece of writing by Marcel Schwantes on Inc's website this morning, where he quoted Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement and the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

"The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead."

I agree with Mr. Greenleaf's opinion because from what I've seen and observed over two decades of my professional career, only those leaders with a high level of humility and empathy can become servant leaders.

They demonstrate their concern for others by not just managing but serving them, which involves taking an interest in their welfare, helping them to grow and develop as individuals, and being available to them when they need assistance.

Servant leadership is never about power, control, or job title; it is about service and caring for others.

In my previous article, I explained that when we lead with empathy, we create an environment in which people feel valued and respected. We also build trust because people know we care about them as human beings, not just as cogs in a machine or expendable parts of the business organization.

Servant leadership based on empathy is a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, build better organizations, and ultimately create a more peaceful and caring world.

Those who practice servant leadership are the leaders who listen first, help others find their solutions, and do not seek recognition or power.

Harvard Business Review stated in one of its articles that workplaces with empathetic leadership tend to enjoy more vital collaboration, less stress, and more excellent morale. Their employees bounce back more quickly from difficult moments, such as what happened in the past two years due to the pandemic.

Still, despite their efforts, many leaders at different levels in the organization struggle to make empathy part of their necessary skills to succeed in their role.

The ultimate question is, "How do we develop the skills to become more empathetic as business leaders?"

It all starts with you, look at yourself in the mirror, conduct a self-evaluation, and do these four things consciously:

#1 Intention

Wayne Dyer said, "Our intention creates our reality."

When you want to become a more empathetic leader, you need to know your true intention and the reason why that motivates you to make a change.

Having empathetic skills allow leaders to help struggling employees improve and excel. Empathy will enable leaders to build and develop relationships with those they lead and build trust along the way that would make achieving business goals much easier together.

Initiating change is difficult, not to mention changing your perspective and opinions and pushing down your ego. Therefore, without knowing your true intention from within, the efforts to become a more empathetic leader will be an uphill battle, and the change you initiated will not last for long.

#2 Permission

You already had an accurate and clear intention; the second thing you need to do is permission, which is allowing yourself to get outside help in your efforts to develop your skills as a more empathetic leader.

You could look around and ask for help from your colleagues whom you think have better empathy than you when dealing with their team members, or you could also ask for the professional help from leadership or executive coaches.

Coaches are trained to help you objectively identify your blind spots and guide you in your transformation journey from where you are right now to the conditions you want to achieve.

It is not easy to work with coaches, especially if you are a typical leader with a know-it-all mentality. But if you permit yourself to get outside help, ready to unlearn and re-learn, hiring leadership or executive coaches -- regardless of a high commitment in terms of time and money -- would be a worthy investment in helping you become a leader with solid empathetic skills.

#3 Attention

Paying attention to all the little steps that you have taken and the next little steps you will take in your journey to develop empathetic skills as a leader is essential.

Just like driving a car, to go from where you are right now to where you want to be, you must be sure that you're on the right track to arrive at your destination. Your transformation journey is also quite similar.

Take notes of what worked and didn't, what would be your next steps, and what progress you have made so far.

Of course, sometimes you will face roadblocks, but does it mean you turn around and return to where you started? The conscious efforts to pay attention and find workable solutions every time you face roadblocks will determine whether or not you can become a more empathetic leader.

Do you have a firm intention and a strong reason why to change? Always look back at those two things whenever you face roadblocks, and if you have a coach who helps you in this journey, don't hesitate to ask for their objective opinions on your next steps that will lead you the right way.

#4 Commitment

Please remember that becoming a more empathetic leader is a goal but not the final destination.

You have to commit to yourself that all the positive changes you have made so far are something that you will practice daily. You do it daily, becoming a habit and eventually becoming a behavior.

When your team members realize that you have made significant changes in how you talk and treat them, you have shown them that you're willing to change and completed significant improvements.

When the leaders' commitment to change is high, in that case, the impact of providing an appropriate example on their team members' commitment to initiate change, either change themselves or change the organization for the better, will be stronger than if the leaders' commitment to change is low.

Change is inevitable. Change as part of the continuous improvements to make the organization a better workplace can only happen when the top leaders are committed and open to accepting new ideas, most notably from their team members.


If the leaders are not willing to change, they will undermine and may even sabotage any efforts to create The Positive Workplace.

Decide which changes will best address the problems you have identified in your organization that might happen because of the lack of empathy from existing leaders.

Decide where and when to start.

Ask for help from professional coaches if necessary to facilitate the required improvements to make empathy part of your corporate culture.

The four things above are pretty simple things to say but challenging to do consciously and continuously because changes in the business organization always start from the top.

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