3 Reasons Why Empathy Is the Most Critical Leadership Skill In 2021

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There are many reasons for The Great Resignation, but the key factor seems to be employees feeling overwhelmed and undervalued. While employers are scrambling to retain staff, there is one simple solution that many people are missing. There is one key practice you could apply to increase employee retention, engagement, inclusivity, innovation, work-life balance, cooperation, and mental health at once: empathy. And if one tool could boost all of these things, why would you not use it? So let’s talk about why empathy is the most crucial leadership skill in 2021. 

According to research, empathy is the most important leadership skill. As recently discussed in Forbes, it is the single greatest predictor of workplace success. This means that empathy is a good business strategy, beyond just being a part of our Christian calling to bear one another’s burdens. Whether or not someone feels heard and valued in their workplace is a huge indicator of how they will succeed, boosting all of the outcomes listed above, and making them more content in both their personal and professional lives. 

In discussing the use of empathy in the workplace with Vanderbloemen’s leadership team, here are three critical aspects that stand out:

  1. Empathy is an overflow of a healthy leader,

  2. Empathy enables creativity to drive your mission, and

  3. Empathy is key in allowing people to heal from personal hurt

Tim Gocha, Vanderbloemen’s Vice President of Consulting, shared his thoughts on empathy, saying that “practicing empathy in leadership should never be viewed as personal weakness or lack of strength and determination. Rather, it’s an indicator of an emotionally healthy leader. Empathetic leaders know themselves first and then they desire to know and to understand others.” This is a key aspect of leadership. Emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders will lead with empathy and therefore better equip their staff. 

Sarah Robins, our Vice President of Sales and Client Relations also shared her insight on leading with empathy. “I think all leaders would agree that empathy is an important trait to possess and practice, but the tricky part is how you manage empathy in the day-to-day. I believe that there’s a little bit of fear in leaders that if you access empathy too much, then you derail the mission or the plan or where you’re headed. I would say it’s the opposite. I believe that when you access empathy with your employees, you connect with them in a way that allows for more creative thinking and a freedom of expression about the mission. Empathy allows people who would potentially otherwise be quiet in the room of ideation and gives them the freedom to speak up, even if their idea isn’t the best one.”

Because any Christian work is inherently personal to people’s spiritual lives, it opens the door for people to be more personally hurt by the failures and struggles of a church, school, or Christian organization. 

As we continue to navigate the difficulty of The Great Resignation, know that there is no single magical tool to prevent turnover. Change in your organization can be healthy and can lead to growth and development, and the best way to ensure that it is healthy, rather than destructive, is to walk through the process with empathy. Your staff is struggling, and they need you to use empathy to walk through difficult seasons with them. It is the tool that will not only keep your team afloat but will help your organization to thrive, ensure your staff’s involvement and commitment, and ultimately drive your mission. 

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