Empathy in Leadership: The Hidden Key to Career Success
From Understanding Emotions to Building Lasting Connections: The Power of Empathy in the Workplace
They say people quit their bosses and not their jobs. It may oversimplify a complex situation, but it has a ring of truth in it. One of the reasons why bosses become bad bosses is because of .. lack of empathy. You know those people!
Unfortunately, it's not a universal trait. While some managers inspire loyalty and motivation, others, lacking empathy, inadvertently push talents away.
Fear not though! There are ways to increase empathy during adulthood. Although it’s an uphill battle, it’s certainly doable.
This articles dives into the essence of empathy, its impact on leadership, and how it can be harnessed for professional growth.
Get real-world experience to land your dream role in tech. Join us as a Product Manager, Designer or Developer, and put your skills into practice by shipping a real MVP! 🚀
What is Empathy?
Many often chalk up career progression to hard skills or network connections, but the ability to genuinely understand and resonate with others' feelings is a game-changer.
Empathy refers to the cognitive and emotional reactions of a person to the observed experiences of another. If you see someone having a bad time, and you’re able to relate to this person on a deep level (e.g. feeling like they do, understanding where they’re coming from), then you’re being empathetic.
How does it help with your career? When you’re someone who can truly relate to another, you are able to extract information from the core problem of someone else. You know exactly why they’re happy about a product or upset with their experience. Since you have these information, you are able to craft messaging that strikes at the heart of your stakeholders and propose solutions that accurately solve others’ pain points. Neat, right?
Being better at something starts with understanding what it is. The same is true with empathy. Read on.
Cognitive v. Affective Empathy
In general, there are two (2) main types of empathy. They are:
1. Cognitive Empathy - Refers to how well you are able to understand the emotions of another. By learning this, you are able to better communicate your thoughts to someone else because you can articulate pretty well the what, why, and how’s.
'I understand that you’re upset. Facing a job loss can be extremely draining because of loss of income and precursor to a future stressful job hunt. Times are tough, and I understand where you’re coming from.'
2. Emotional Empathy - On the other hand, this refers to your ability to share the emotions others are feeling. Learning how to empathize this way provides you with another set of perspective. It forges genuine connection because you’re able to feel the same way as others.
'I understand that you’re upset. Facing a job loss can be extremely draining. I, too, lost my job a year ago. It was the most stressful time of my life. I’m sure it’s pretty tough for you and I commiserate with this negative experience.'
That said, it’s also important to understand that these two types of empathy are not hierarchies. Instead, they are part of one whole. You can understand why something is feeling sad (Cognitive), but not share the same feeling of distress (Emotional), vice versa.
Ultimately, what’s important is what you do with empathy. Consider this:
'I understand that you’re upset. Facing a job loss can be extremely draining. Last year, I also lost my job. It was very stressful because of the loss of income. Life may be difficult for you now, but rest assured that things can become better. I am here to offer you and support that I can.'
Learning how to be empathetic doesn’t end with knowing why someone else feels a certain way or sharing the same feeling. It ends with what actions you can take to help someone in need. You recognize someone is stuck, so you commiserate, share your vulnerabilities, and offer actionable support. This is how you build connections that last.
Utilizing Empathy in your Career
In navigating your career, empathy can take you far. Understanding your and others’ emotions is advantageous in a wide array of circumstances.
You are able to separate your own bias. You can leverage your connections and influence others. Your ability to put yourselves in someone else’s shoes will provide you with almost first-hand perspectives - all too essential in making sure you’re working towards the optimal solutions.
Lastly, empathizing genuinely with others will allow good people to gravitate towards you. They will share their successes with you. Provide you with opportunities because you are genuinely invested in their well-being. These connections will compound and redound to your benefit.
And you can train to be more empathetic by being genuinely curious with others. It may not feel natural at first, but just like with everything, training will help you cultivate skills towards mastery. Learn to listen. Remove judgments. Mindful meditation 5-10 minutes a day also helps greatly. You become in tune with your own feelings and senses, that you’re able to do the same to others.
Add Empathy to your Career Skillset
Empathy, far from being just an emotional response, has proven its mettle as an invaluable professional tool. Leaders who prioritize understanding and valuing the emotions of their team foster trust, collaboration, and dedication.
While it's a skill rooted in our early years, the good news is that it's never too late to hone it. By practicing active listening, mindfulness, and genuine curiosity, we can better align our actions with the needs and feelings of those around us.
In a corporate world that can often feel detached, empathy is the bridge to meaningful, productive, and lasting relationships.
Are you an aspiring Product Manager? The Co.Lab program is the perfect place to gain real-world, cross-functional experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
If you want to shift to tech, especially from a non-tech background, you need to either have good domain knowledge, lots of transferrable skills, or have something to bridge the skillset you have currently and the requirements of the roles that you are looking for.
One of the programs that provide those is Co.Lab's 8-week Product Management Bootcamp, where you can get real-life work experience by building a live product of your own with a cross-functional team in an agile environment. Learn how to build your tech skills with a supportive community and pre-vetted industry mentors to carefully guide you along your tech journey.
Want to test out the waters first? Dip your toes into Product by joining the 4-week Product Management Sprint instead.
It may be difficult to make the shift into tech, but that’s precisely why you don’t have to do it alone. Be part of the community! Follow us on on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest updates.