“Every single day in our role as leaders, we encounter situations where empathy would serve us and others well.” Peter Margaritis
There are dozens of remarkable leaders and scholars singing the praises of empathy in the workplace. For example, in his book, Geoff Colvin, the Fortune Magazine Senior Editor, argues that as workplaces evolve and leadership models change, the most important skill that leaders must possess is empathy. Similarly, an article published in the Harvard Business Review after a survey of 6000 leaders, Jack Singer and Joseph Folkman, revealed that women leaders were more decisive as compared to their male counterparts when it came to empathy.
People use the terms sympathy and empathy in overlapping and interchangeable ways, but there’s a distinct difference. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel what they feel, not what you think they feel. It involves grief and pain when and because someone else is feeling it. Every single day in our role as leaders, we encounter situations where empathy would serve us and others well. Sympathy, on the other hand, means understanding someone else’s suffering. It is more cognitive and keeps a certain distance.
Even if it is hard to show empathy, you must be vulnerable and authentic and put your ego aside. It’s about making a human connection and not just pushing the conversation to a conclusion so you can get on with your day and get back to work. Being vulnerable is putting yourself out there for others to see. It takes courage, and it takes time. Being vulnerable is a sign of being human, authentic, genuine, and honest, and by being vulnerable, you create a stronger human connection.