Practical Tips for New Leaders: Empathy

This is part four of a 12-part series.

Successfully leading a team can be one of the most rewarding aspects of a professional’s career. However, addressing a diverse group effectively can be difficult for new leaders. From open communication and recognition to delegation and empowerment to self-awareness and empathy, there are a plethora of leadership arrows professionals must carry in their quivers to be successful. So during this yearlong series, we will examine 12 areas of focus and reveal practical tips to help new leaders in some of the most important aspects of leadership. Fourth up: empathy.


Being an empathetic leader can lead to a more engaged team, higher communication levels, and less conflict. But while 90% of HR professionals and CEOs believe empathy is very important, only 68% of employees said their leaders were empathetic, according to the 2020 State of Workplace Empathy study. The study also found that while 80% of workers say their co-workers are empathetic, only 63% say their CEOs are. And with the study finding that 74% of employees say they would work longer hours for an empathetic leader, it is more important than ever to focus on empathy. Check out these three tips for building your empathy.

  1. Ask Questions, Listen, and Learn

One of the first steps to becoming a more empathetic leader is to become a better listener. Often, people in leadership positions delegate and communicate goals well, but the communication is only one-way. To fully understand your employees, two-way communication is key. Regardless of the topic (explaining a project, working through feedback, or handling conflict), ask questions to better understand where your team is coming from, as well as to better gage their understanding of the conversation as it stands. Be sure to listen to your employees’ needs, desires, and concerns, and learn from their perspective. “Ask, Listen, and Learn” should drive your next action steps.

  1. Be Authentic and Transparent

Authenticity goes a long way in gaining trust among your employees. However, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review, only 18% of individuals trust their business leaders to tell the truth. To grow into a more authentic leader start by working on self-awareness. You can’t expect employees to be open and honest with you without first being open and honest with yourself. Understand your strengths, weaknesses, and areas dedicated to personal growth. Then, create transparency between you and your employees. People want to follow a leader who is honest, and by living out that characteristic, you’ll be able to build a team that is honest with you.

  1. Get Personal

While creating professional boundaries is important to maintain a healthy work-life balance and to ensure no lines are crossed in the workplace, it can still be helpful to get to know your employees to a degree on a personal level. From family obligations to side hobbies to interests, everyone has something outside of their work that affects who they are as an employee. Getting to know what makes your team members special will help them feel more fully known by their leader. And when something comes up that conflicts with work, you will be more prepared to understand and give grace when needed. However, don’t push this issue unless your employees feel comfortable opening up. Some people are private, and that’s okay, too. The point is to show genuine interest in your employees, which will help build a culture of empathy in your office.

What are some important empathy tips you’ve learned during your career? How has a focus on empathy helped you lead a successful team? Let us know in the comments section below!

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