Empathy is an emotional intelligence skill that we develop that allows us to connect with and share the emotions of other people. I like to think of empathy as putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Have you ever heard the phrase "walk a mile in another man's shoes"? This metaphor connects us to empathy in a deep fashion because it calls us to put aside our own circumstances and evaluate the hardships that another person may be going experiencing through a different lens. Once you can truly experience empathy, you will attempt to understand the challenges, circumstances, and thought processes of another being before passing any sort of judgement. Developing empathy allows you to connect with your peers and followers on an emotional level and helps your build trust. Once you have shown empathy and developed trust in your relationships with peers and followers, it is more likely that people will share their needs with you and then you can find ways to meet those needs.
Empathy in Leadership
I believe that the empathy competency has directly impacted my own leadership by helping me build relationships with coworkers and with peers within my network. In my experience, I have found empathy to be the most useful emotional intelligence skill when it comes to earning someone’s trust. Once you can show someone that you truly care for and empathize with their feelings without passing judgement, they will be more likely to trust you. I work with a small staff of roughly 30 employees so developing trust with each one of them is important to me. I believe that empathy has been a great tool in minimizing conflict as well because when difficult scenarios arise, people will be more willing to talk to you first before jumping into a conflict. A proper display of empathy will make people more likely to believe that you are genuinely invested in their circumstances and overall well-being. My goal for my relationships with my current staff and with any futures staff teams is to develop trusting relationships where people feel like they can share their needs with me. Once needs have been shared, we can work on a creative solution to meet them, and I believe that displaying empathy is the first step in building the trusting relationships that I desire.
This artifact that I have chosen for the empathy competency is from OGL 220: Behavioral Dynamics in Organizations. Throughout my time in OGL 220, I had to the opportunity to learn about the impacts of leadership styles on group, team, and organizational dynamics. I am grateful for OGL 220 because it taught me how to focus on different aspects of my own leadership style that I had never spent the time evaluating before. I have taken many classes that teach you about different leadership styles and how they affect the groups you apply them to, but this class gave me a new perspective of how the leadership styles and skills that I have learned about could be reflected in my own experiences.
Empathy and Organizational Leadership
I think the empathy competency directly relates to the organizational leadership degree because as leaders we must be emotionally intelligent and empathy is a big part of that. Empathy teaches leaders new ways to build and maintain healthy working environments. Empathy fosters a healthier work environment through trust and communication. Any leader that can create a culture of trust and open communication is better off than they started and empathy is one of the key ways to do that. I think that including the empathy competency in the Organizational Leadership degree program will teach many leaders to come how to build trust and open communication in interpersonal relationships and amongst a team or group.
Personal Growth & Development
I think that empathy has made a large contribution to my growth and development as a leader because it has shifted my focus to building relationships. As a newcomer in the business world, building relationships with peers and creating a network that you can draw support from will greatly benefit you. I believe that displaying empathy during the interactions that you have with these desired peers will help you gain their trust and lay the foundation for your relationship. In my current position as a shift supervisor, I can be borrowed to pick up shifts at quite a few other stores within our area. That means that I work with a lot of different teams. It can be difficult to jump in to a leadership role where you are in charge of a store that you have never worked at before because people don't want to be bossed around by the leader that's only going to be there for a day. However, displaying empathy and attempting to connect with the team first instead of jumping straight into job duties has proven to be useful to me.