Sunday, May 26, 2024

How to Show More Empathy in Leadership: 12 Tips

empathy in leadership
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What is one way a leader can show more empathy in their leadership? To help leaders improve their emotional intelligence, we asked business professionals and leaders this question for their insights. From listening without interrupting to validating through action, there are several ways to empathize with those on your team.

Here are 12 tips to show more empathy in leadership:


  • Listen Without Interrupting
  • Infuse the Day With Inclusive Communication
  • Be Open to Differences
  • Validate Through Action
  • Repeat What Team Members Say to You
  • Keep an Open Line of Communication
  • Form Personal Connections
  • Focus on the Speaker, Not on Your Response
  • Share Your Failures
  • Listen for Understanding
  • Check in Regularly
  • Know the Inner Workings of Their Roles

Listen Without Interrupting

A truly empathetic leader treats employees as human beings rather than as company resources. You can show your employees you think of them this way by being a good listener. 

If those working for you ever come to you with concerns or issues, let them speak — and don’t interrupt. When they’ve finished, ask questions that show that not only were you listening to them, but that you heard them. In this way, you will win their trust and loyalty. 

Debra Hildebrand, Hildebrand Solutions, LLC

Infuse the Day With Inclusive Communication

It’s never been more vital to use soft skills like listening and empathy to establish meaningful connections with employees. In my practice, we’re making sure to choose the right moments for friendly chats with our team members. 

Addressing someone by their name creates an instant connection, and they tend to listen to you more attentively. And when you ask people questions, it shows that you’re genuinely interested and care about them. 

Listening and responding with empathy validates people, making them more receptive to your ideas. Infusing our workdays with inclusive communication lifts everybody’s mood and brings us closer together as a team.

Zachary Okhah, PH-1 Miami

Be Open to Differences

The first step to showing more empathy as a leader is to start by getting to know each person in your team individually. Understand that your team is built with individuals with different motivations, strengths, skills, challenges and backgrounds. 

Don’t expect everyone in your team to deliver great results by following one generic process. Instead, adopt new methods or delegate tasks that best match the working style of each team member but most importantly, understand that if someone is performing poorly, you cannot provide a one-size-fits-all type of solution.

Jessica Ulloa, MyPerfectResume

Validate Through Action

Empathy is one of the most important soft skills a leader could and should have, but it is often overlooked despite having a significant impact on team culture, innovation and retention. It is something that leaders should practice everyday with every single employee. 

Leaders can show empathy by listening, understanding and validating through action. This way, everyone can feel valued and respected for their unique input and contribution within your organization and beyond.

Rronniba Pemberton, Markitors

Repeat What Team Members Say to You

One way to show more empathy is to repeat what team members say to you. If someone is negotiating their salary, you can say, “I hear you saying that earning more is a priority for you,” and then you can respond appropriately. 

The reason repeating shows empathy is that your conversation partner’s literal words are coming out of your mouth. You have taken at least some time and energy to consider the other viewpoint, which is a great way to establish yourself as a thoughtful and compassionate leader.

Melissa Kelly, Virtual Team Building

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Attaining a leadership position is one thing, but growing in a leadership position is another. One way a leader can show more empathy is to be a listening ear to their peers. So many of us have a multitude of chaos going on in our lives and struggle to compartmentalize everything healthily. 

Therefore, if someone is struggling, having an off day, or needs a moment to breathe, the leader needs to step up and understand that this person is reaching out for help. A leader can be a helping hand and empathic by sitting and listening to their peers during their struggles and understanding how they can be there for them. 

By having this open line of communication and honesty, a leader can show more empathy and know-how to be there for others.

Aaron McWilliams, 1Dental

Form Personal Connections

Showing empathy isn’t about letting people off with their mistakes because you feel bad, but rather forming a personal connection with your employees. This will help you understand why your employee may be falling short or making mistakes so you can help them out. Being an empathetic leader is being a real human being.

Brooke Wilson, Fabric

Focus on the Speaker, Not on Your Response

Give your full attention to the speaker to show that you value what they’re saying. Make sure you listen, especially when they are sharing their feelings. Consider how you would like to be treated if you were in their position so you can determine how to best show your support. 

As an empathetic leader, sharp listening skills are crucial for building trust and strong relationships. Stay focused on the speaker rather than what you want to say because the moment is about them.

Payel Gupta, Cleared

Share Your Failures

Great leaders aren’t afraid to share when they’ve experienced a failure at work. It creates the precedent that team members don’t have to be perfect and can learn without fear of punishment. 

When they do make a mistake, it’s the perfect time to step in as a mentor, help them recover and lead with empathy. That empathy will be authentic because of the standard you set in being vulnerable. This approach creates trust, loyalty and more empowered team members.

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Listen for Understanding

Empathy starts with listening. For one-on-one meetings and team huddles, a good leader will listen to learn and ask questions to better understand issues and motivations. 

Often when the individual contributor gets to talk through a situation, they will find a solution on their own with little to no redirection from the leader. And even if the employee can’t get what they want or the situation won’t work out in their favor, they will leave the meeting feeling heard.

Tamara Scott, TechnologyAdvice

Check in Regularly

In order to show empathy, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re leading. You can ask employees how they’re feeling on a regular basis. Checking in with them allows you to get an idea of their mental state and shows that you care about the people you work with.

Heidi Streeter, Holiday St.

Know the Inner Workings of Their Roles

Despite being a leader, it can be helpful to literally put yourself in the shoes of your team members. Spend the day learning and performing tasks that they do in order to get an idea of what their jobs entail. When you have an idea of how things work for your employees, you’ll be more likely to develop empathy.

Evan Zhao, Revela Health

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