Leaders are typically associated with qualities such as strength, vision, and ambition. But is this actually what team members are looking for in their leaders? A 2021 study by Catalyst found that empathy is the most important quality a leader can bring to the table.
Catalyst’s most remarkable finding was this: “76% of people with highly empathic senior leaders report often or always being engaged, compared to only 32% of people with less empathic senior leaders.”
Every leader wants engaged team members, so how can you develop the skills needed to be an empathic servant leader? Let’s look at five essential skills every leader needs and how to develop them.
1. Be an Active Listener
Become a leader who listens, and you’ll develop trusting relationships with your workforce. When team members know that they can speak without judgment and truly be heard, they know that you have their best interests at heart.
Listening is not just something that takes place occasionally during a performance review or meeting. It’s something you need to work on day in, day out as you interact with your team. And here’s the kicker – you don’t just listen with your ears.
An effective listener notes people’s body language. For example, they’re sensitive to facial expressions and moods. By picking up on these non-verbal signals, they gain an insight into what’s going on in an employee’s life.
Tactfully following up on verbal and non-verbal cues can help you discern the support or guidance your teammates need to thrive. There’s no need to wait for their performance to drop before you start noticing that something’s not right.
After you’ve listened, don’t forget to follow up. Complete agreed-on actions, and don’t be afraid to solicit feedback on how you can do better. See listening as an opportunity to learn how to become a more empathic and effective leader.
2. Be a Courageous Communicator
Every article on leadership will emphasize the need to be an effective communicator. Communication involves more than succinctly expressing thoughts, writing clear emails, or giving balanced feedback. It requires a skill that’s difficult for many leaders to address – courage.
Courage is the ability to do something that scares you. For many of us, that’s not holding a snake or riding a rollercoaster. Instead, it’s having difficult conversations – conversations that require you to be vulnerable, authentic, and honest.
Your team members will genuinely respect you if you can develop the courage to have these powerful conversations. Of course, the most effective exchanges require good preparation and self-reflection. But preparation does not mean having the conversation mapped out word for word before it begins.
Instead, consider the goal of the conversation. What pain points may come up for both sides? How can you address these authentically?
The more you embrace these challenging conversations, the stronger the bond of trust you’ll develop with your coworkers. They’ll appreciate your honesty and openness and will be motivated to support your leadership.
3. Develop Self-Awareness
There are several elements to self-awareness, and it’s about more than just knowing your strengths and weaknesses. You need to understand how your behavior and character impact others and your ability to lead them effectively. You also need to have a strong sense of who you are in terms of your beliefs and motivations.
A person who lacks self-awareness continually encounters the same situations or reactions but doesn’t understand why. For example, imagine that you try to have courageous conversations with your teammates and listen carefully to their responses but find people don’t want to open up to you.
A self-aware person looks inward to find clues about what’s going wrong. Could it be that you:
- Interrupt the other person when they try to speak?
- Talk about yourself too much?
- Only communicate when it suits you, rather than being open to communication at all times?
Self-aware leaders also recognize their emotional triggers and know how to deal with them. Rather than accepting negative reactions as an unchangeable part of who you are, look for ways to deal constructively with your feelings. It could be as simple as forcing yourself to focus on the positives rather than the negatives of a situation or individual.
This shift in thinking can help you to avoid wasting time on unproductive thought patterns that lead to negative leadership outcomes. Instead, hold yourself accountable for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. You’ll become a more authentic leader, and you’ll empathize with others more sincerely.
4. Focus on Others
As a servant leader, your focus should be on helping others grow and thrive. As you get to know your team better through effective communication, identify their personal goals and potential for growth.
The best leaders look for ways to develop team members’ skills. This could include providing training, giving them additional responsibility, or assigning them tasks that will take their skills to the next level. Delegate whole tasks, let them lead, and provide support and feedback to help them excel.
For your team to be engaged and ready to learn, you need to lead by example. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own areas for development and how you are working on them. This will inspire your team to keep moving forward and investing in their own learning journey.
5. Display Passion for Your Work
A listless leader will unfailingly produce an unmotivated team. Passion is key to being an inspiring leader, but this needs to come from within. Reflect on:
- The value of your work
- The good it will accomplish
- How you can improve the customer experience
Develop an internal fire for your work. This will bubble over, and you’ll inspire others to give their work the engagement it deserves. Be the example of the behavior you wish others to follow and demonstrate to others.
Ready to Take Your Leadership Skills to the Next Level?
It takes courage to be your authentic self as a leader. But when you do so, you’ll develop incredible relationships with your team members. Together, you’ll be able to stay engaged and drive your business forward.
At Aden Leadership, we help motivated professionals to become the best leaders they can be. Why not schedule a discovery call today to find out how we can help you achieve your potential? Please consider attending my Courageous Conversations webinar > Courageous Conversations Webinars – Aden Leadership.