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Empathetic Leadership: A Game-Changer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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Gone are the days when organizations chose leaders solely on their work experience, advanced skill sets, and degrees. 

Today, World Economic Forum considers empathy as one of the most crucial skills a leader must possess.  

According to Catalyst’s survey, 61% of employees were innovative, and 76% felt engaged when working with empathetic leaders. Empathy also directly impacts diversity, equity, and inclusion. The same survey revealed a 22%-to-58%-point difference in employees across different genders and racial groups feeling valued and respected while working with an empathetic leader compared to less empathetic ones. 

As the world bears the global recession, reels from the aftermath of a pandemic, and many other troubling times, empathetic leadership can go a long way in keeping employees motivated.

What Is Empathetic Leadership and What are the Characteristics of an Empathetic Leader?

Empathetic leadership focuses on understanding the employees, listening, and communicating, and working with them to create a positive work environment. 

An empathetic leader possesses the following characteristics:

  • Good communication skills: An empathetic leader follows an open-door communication policy and actively listens to employees’ concerns and ideas without prejudice.
  • Compassion: An empathetic leader is compassionate and non-judgmental, understands the employees’ challenges and behavior, and creates a positive environment for them to learn and grow. 
  • High emotional quotient: An empathetic leader has a high EQ that allows them to understand the emotions of their employees and promote a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusivity. 

As more organizations prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI), empathetic leadership has become vital to create such a culture.

How Can Empathetic Leadership Be a Game Changer?

  • Reduces Attrition

Employees who feel valued are more engaged and willing to walk the extra mile to contribute to the organization’s growth. Empathetic leaders ensure employees from different genders and minority groups feel included and respected. This helps in improving employee motivation and reduces the high attrition rates. 

  • Improves Innovation and Bottom Line

According to Harvard Business Review, an organization with a diverse workforce generates 19% more revenue. This is because a diverse workforce brings different experiences, skills, and knowledge that help organizations solve problems differently and innovate. Since empathetic leaders are unbiased and non-judgmental, they value tapping into people’s talents and skills more than their gender, ethnicity, etc. They create a space for employees to express themselves freely without fear. This encourages employees to contribute to the organization’s growth, leading to innovation and improvement in the bottom line.

  • Build Brand Reputation

Over 62% of employees would reject a job offer from an organization that doesn’t have DEI policies. An organization that supports DEI initiatives has a strong reputation and attracts top talent from various countries. An empathetic leader can help organizations build their reputation by implementing DEI initiatives and ensuring all employees get equal opportunities to grow and thrive. 

How Can Empathetic Leaders Foster a Culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity?

  • Create a Safe Space for Employees

Ideas are critical for an organization’s growth. However, employees of different minority groups might hesitate to share their ideas with their leaders. An empathetic leader must create a safe space for employees to freely share their ideas and concerns without fear of rejection and failure. They must allow employees to experiment and be willing to embrace failure. This will make employees across all genders and minority groups feel valued and understood and encourage them to innovate and contribute to the organization’s growth.

  • Have Open Conversations

Communication is critical to creating a sense of belonging among all employees, especially those from different genders and minority groups. An empathetic leader understands this and encourages employees to have open conversations with them. 

To ensure that employees feel acknowledged, leaders must encourage them to speak out their concerns fearlessly. They must ask the right questions, listen carefully, and extend support to help employees find solutions to overcome their challenges. Honest conversations lead to transparency between leadership and employees and help build trust.

  • Keep Employees at the Heart of All Decisions

Organizations must prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, and well-being to create an empathetic workplace culture. By keeping these values at the forefront of all employee decisions, empathetic leaders can foster personal connections between management and employees, improve employee relations and experiences, and reinforce company culture. 

  • Develop Inclusive HR Policies

To build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, a leader has to start by developing inclusive HR policies. They must revisit the existing policies and adopt an employee-centric approach to redesigning them. 

The policies must consider the challenges employees across different genders and minority groups face at the workplace and ensure that they are addressed. The leaders must assess these policies regularly to ensure that they encompass the challenges that most employees from different genders and minority groups face and are relevant to the changing times. 

  • Coach Employees 

An empathetic leader cares about the employee’s career as much as they care for the organization’s growth. Sometimes employees from different minority groups have limited access to learning resources compared to other employees. An empathetic leader understands these challenges and mentors employees to facilitate their growth. 

They identify the skills gap that could hinder an employee’s progress and develop individualized learning paths to help them grow in their career. An empathetic leader invests in employees’ professional development, eventually benefiting the organization too. 

How to Nurture Empathetic Leadership?

An empathetic leader can be a game-changer for any organization committed to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture.

However, empathetic leaders are not born. They are nurtured to become one. 

We believe organizations must coach leaders to become compassionate and unbiased to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. They must be trained to become a connected and conscious leader to understand their team members without judgment, communicate with them openly, and create a safe space to grow and thrive in the organization. 

That’s why at Numly, we have developed a 60-day pilot program of NumlyEngage™ to help managers develop better leadership skills and build better teams. Contact us to learn more on how to empower your leaders to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 

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