Joy Journal

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Why Empathetic Leadership is Vital in the Workplace

Empathetic leadership is now a necessary skill set. Find out why. 


What is empathy in leadership, and why is it important in the workplace?

The high stakes hustle workplace mentality is no longer a rite of passage. Professionals are placing a higher priority on a work environment that is much kinder on the mind and body. People crave real relationships that involve emotional connections, especially post-pandemic. They want empathetic leadership.

A study conducted by the Journal of Services Marketing found that empathy in a workplace can reduce antisocial behavior, revenge, discrimination, and other unethical behaviors in business settings. It also fosters a positive workplace culture that motivates employees.

Sympathy vs. empathy vs. compassion

Sympathy is often more closely related to pity. When you show sympathy for someone, that means your emotions are a reaction to someone else’s situation without fully understanding what that situation feels like. Basically, you feel sorry for someone, but you don’t actually feel their emotions.

Empathy, on the other hand, is the ability to comprehend what a person is going through and feel those emotions with them. Showing empathy in leadership, meaning you understand the feelings and needs of your workers, can establish you as a leader who genuinely cares about the wellbeing of your employees. 

Compassion is usually a reaction of empathy. It’s the desire to take action to assist someone with their problem in some way. When you understand how someone feels, compassion is the urge to help them because of that. While compassion and empathy can be mutually exclusive, they often go hand-in-hand.

How Empathetic Leadership Benefits the Workplace

Establishes trust

When you lead with empathy, you establish yourself as a trustworthy confidant–a leader who gives unconditional support to your team. By doing so, your team will feel like they can open up to you.

Creates a ripple effect

Not only will your team appreciate your willingness to listen and help, but they will also naturally want to return the favor for you and each other. Leading by example will make your team stronger.

Opens communication

By opening the floodgates for more honest communication, you and your team will be able to make better, more informed decisions. When you’re honest about something, the person receiving that honesty will open up as well. This allows you and your team to address any elephants in the room without bottling up dissatisfaction or frustration.

Increases influence

Establishing yourself as an empathetic leader will give you leverage for favors in the future. This is not to be confused with manipulation. Being kind and empathetic to others will make people react to tasks differently than if you are cruel and cold. 

Improves job satisfaction 

Job satisfaction is one of the most important elements to consider as a leader in the workplace. Empathy, a previously overlooked dimension of employee-job interactions, has been proven to significantly affect how employees feel about their jobs.

Elevates overall growth

When you create a positive workplace climate where employees feel seen and heard, productivity is bound to increase. In fact, 61% of employees with empathetic leaders reported feeling more innovative compared to only 13% of employees with less empathetic leaders. Employees who view their work and workplace as fulfilling aspects of their lives are more likely to want to contribute in a positive way.

Ways to Increase Your Empathy in Leadership

Learn the signs of burnout and look out for them

When you understand what burnout is and how it manifests itself in the behavior of your employees, you can identify those clues early on and preemptively work to avoid them. Read our blog about burnout to familiarize yourself with what it looks like and why it should be avoided.

Show sincere interest in other people

Understanding the unique needs and goals of your team members allows you to make educated decisions about matching work assignments to each individual. More motivation based on individual preferences means more productivity. 

Be enthusiastic about helping others with personal problems

Your employees are not work robots. They are complex individuals with issues going on outside of work. Keep an open line of communication between you and your team members, and demonstrate a willingness to help. This will make them feel more comfortable sharing with you when they need to.

Show compassion in the wake of a personal loss

Chances are that you have experienced a personal loss of some kind in your life. If you haven’t, you’re a lucky one. Going through a loss like that shows you that having emotional support wherever you can get it during that time is not only nice, but necessary. 


By becoming an empathetic leader, you can ultimately foster a more positive workplace environment that helps alleviate burnout and motivates your employees to work more efficiently. For a deeper dive into how to accomplish this, look into our Joychiever Program.

Working on your empathetic leadership will also strengthen your emotional intelligence, which is a huge asset in your business arsenal. To learn more about how to optimize your workplace experience, read more of our blogs


Why is empathy important for leadership?

  • Showing empathy in leadership establishes you as a trustworthy confidant who genuinely cares about how your employees are doing. By doing so, you’ll foster a more welcoming and inclusive workplace.

Who is an empathetic leader example?

What’s the difference between compassion vs. empathy?

  • Empathy is the ability to be aware of someone’s emotions and also understand how that feels. Compassion is closely related to empathy; it’s an emotional reaction to understanding a situation or problem. It is the desire to help with the issue in some way.

What is more important: empathy or compassion?

  • Both are beneficial as a business leader and human being in general. Empathy is an understanding of how something feels, and compassion is the urge to do something about it. Likewise, both are best handled in moderation to your bandwidth. Too much of one or the other can lead to you feeling burnout.

What comes first, compassion or empathy?

  • Compassion is usually a reaction to empathy. When we empathize with someone, we are able to put ourselves in their shoes. This understanding often leads to compassion, which is the urge to act on those feelings. 


Can you be compassionate without empathy?

  • It is possible to show compassion for a practical purpose. Showing compassion, or helping someone out with a problem, is beneficial as a leader in the workplace. However, compassion and empathy are often intertwined.

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