Great Leaders Have Empathy

Empathy is a component of emotional intelligence that is critical to leadership.  Empathy builds strong teams and ultimately gets results.

Empathy is the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide your actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity.

The big buzz about empathy stems from a revolutionary shift in the science of how we understand human nature. The old view that we are essentially self-interested creatures is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that we are also homo empathicus, wired for empathy, social cooperation, and mutual aid.

Over the last decade, neuroscientists have identified a 10-section “empathy circuit” in our brains which, if damaged, can curtail our ability to understand what other people are feeling. Evolutionary biologists like Frans de Waal have shown that we are social animals who have naturally evolved to care for each other, just like our primate cousins. And psychologists have revealed that we are primed for empathy by strong attachment relationships in the first two years of life. 

But empathy doesn’t stop developing in childhood. We can nurture its growth throughout our lives—and we can use it to nurture employees and colleagues while building strong companies.

Research in sociology, psychology, and history reveals how we can make empathy an attitude and a part of our daily lives, and thus improve the lives of everyone around us. Here are the Six Habits of Highly Empathic People!

Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers

Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities

Habit 3: Try another person’s life

Habit 4: Listen hard—and open up

Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change

Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination

Want to become a better leader?  Start integrating these habits into your life.  Each of these habits will likely require a new commitment on your part. Don’t try to do it all at once.  Pick one and start there.  Simple habits, implemented every day, will produce extraordinary results over time.  The goal is to start.  Start somewhere.  And then build from that foundation.


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