Do We Need Empathy in Leadership? Super Fantastic Leadership Show


083: Do We Really Need More Empathy In Leadership?


This week is about the recent explosion of the idea that we may need more empathy in leadership. It is an interesting idea for sure and when we think of the experience that we could inadvertently treat each other like robots, it seems that empathy may be the solution. However, there are also other dynamics playing a role in this situation such as the power of the employees themselves. Empathy also has it’s shadow side as well which is can cause us to see specific groups of others as more relevant than the other group. Now our very own empathy can become biased. So, does more empathy in leadership really matter?

Well, the truth is that we’re not totally convinced that all is needed in leadership. What causes us to suddenly no longer have empathy for one another and what happens when we have no plan? One thing for sure is that we could all end up sitting in a pool of emotion which also isn’t helpful. The balance of our actions is just as important as the empathy itself. Without looking at the context it is impossible to know if empathy is really the solution to expectations that are not aligned. In other words, if the expectations aren’t clear about what is required within the context of our work, empathy isn’t really the answer. Also, empathy isn’t necessarily what allows us to change our behavior for the long term and can put us in a state of reactionary behaviors without discernment. Therefore, without our rational mind on-board, we will be much more likely to put our family and friends ahead of everyone else to the detriment of a “stranger” (aka someone not on your team). It is highly likely that we need a very smooth dance between our empathy and our higher-level cognition. There is another very important part to this. Perhaps we don’t need more empathy but in fact, we need more connection with each other. Listen to the show and let us know what you think.

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