The Need of Empathetic Leadership in the Post-Pandemic World

In today’s challenging business environment, people are exerting a lot of effort just to keep up with the needed work. Leading people in such an ambiguous world is no easy job for many leaders.  Leading teams remotely in different sites, countries, and maybe continents has become the new normal. We may have been at this status for more than a year, but there still is a lot left to learn.

The work-from-home transition has been disruptive to many leaders and organizations to the extent many organizations spent long hours in projects to explore and develop new operating models that fit this new reality.

Many businesses across the world suffered big hits in their bottom-line during the first few months of the pandemic and their only way out was to offload the ship through lay-offs so that the sail could go on. The result is millions of people have lost their jobs! This has certainly created a lot of underlying trust issues and extreme anxiety with the existing employees for those companies here and there.

Creating the right environment and (re)building trust has become extremely crucial. Great leaders have quickly learned that the empathetic leadership approach is one of the greatest ways to get over all the mixed emotions and keep their people positive. It is an important way to help their people overcome uncertainty and build trust.

Amid all this motion, leaders still have targets to achieve and because “empathy” is not in the DNA of all the leaders, some leaders are concerned about their status and position and get into the performance discussion focusing on the topic, not the person! One leader might say to an employee “Your numbers are not improving for the 4th week in a row and I do not guarantee what’s going to happen next if you do not fix them”! How inspired do you think this employee is to do their job the next day? Leaders might forget something could be wrong with the person or their family that is impacting their outcome! A great leader who practices empathy might say ” Your numbers are down for the 4th week in a row, are you okay? I am worried about you?”. Great leaders are concerned about the human being, not just their output. If they reach the root cause with the employee, their effectiveness will be maximized.

Empathetic leaders walk a mile in their people’s shoes. They deeply listen, acknowledge, reflect and give options to their people. They do daily check-in calls and ask their team individually how they feel today and show a genuine interest to provide full support when needed. They have learned to over-communicate during tough times.  They practice tools like coaching and feedback to keep their employees engaged and on track towards meeting their objectives. The coaching process can give employees a new perspective and understanding of how their work is perceived by their customers and stakeholders.

 Great leaders have learned that recognition does not necessarily need to be expensive, but merely authentic and well-deserved. It serves as a way to move beyond mental exhaustion to a sense of inspiration, motivation and boosted employee engagement. 

Our work world has changed and so the leadership qualities have changed over the years. The current circumstances are calling for yet another significant transition in what makes a leader. Empathetic leadership is like a muscle, the more you practice it, the stronger it becomes in your style. Leadership now also means being able to show up as vulnerable. This means as a leader you create an environment for someone to feel safe enough to raise their hand and say “I made a mistake”, ” I am scared” or “I am worried”. Things which people might think twice before talking about because there is ‘another round of lay-offs’. It is the mere responsibility of the leader to foster this culture through empathetic leadership and how to help people be at their natural best by the practice of empathy.

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