Empathy: Seeing Beneath the Surface
Leaders should leverage empathy's power to illuminate deeper human truths that unlock higher performance and purpose.
Leaders often focus on the visible signals from team members - the deliverables achieved, sales closed, and projects completed. Yet what lies beneath the surface, unseen and unspoken, shapes performance profoundly.
As Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said, "Take care of your employees, and they'll take care of your business." Empathy offers leaders the vision to see beneath superficial metrics into the whole contributor and what truly drives them.
Microsoft Japan saw productivity skyrocket with a 4-day work week. This dramatic boost happened when leaders tuned into employee fatigue and reduced hours with empathy. Similarly, Acuity Insurance's CEO Ben Salzmann provided more mental health resources in the pandemic after empathizing with heightened employee anxiety.
Yet some legendary CEOs like Steve Jobs have been criticized for an abrasive management style lacking compassion. In contrast, Starbucks' Howard Schultz once said “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” His quote speaks to leading with empathy’s powers of authentic connection.
Ultimately, research confirms empathy’s hard dividends - a 2022 study published in Frontiers of Psychology shows empathy markedly improves performance indicators like job satisfaction, retention and trust.
While metrics matter, leaders cannot lose sight of the human elements empathy reveals that truly drive sustainable success - the need for purpose, compassion, trust and meaningful work. With empathy at the helm, leaders can see deeper forces stirring the currents of high achievement.