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Why Empathy is the Most Important Leadership Skill Right Now

The times they are a-changin’! But are we changing in our roles too? Trying to view things from others’ perspective is paramount more than ever.

Photo by Mohamed Hassan/ Pixabay
Photo by Mohamed Hassan/ Pixabay

The debate over how ‘empathy’ is a great leadership skill or not, has been going on for decades. A lot of people feel that empathy makes a leader weak and susceptible to making poor decisions, not aligned for organisational benefits.

However, current times are teaching us that ‘empathy’ is what will get your people to stick around, especially in a crisis like now. Simply put, empathy is now more important than ever. 

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective and feelings, it’s about getting into another person’s shoes, to assess how they would feel in their shoes. It’s linking with another person as a person, to understand what others are experiencing as they are experiencing it. 

When people feel understood, when leaders are honest and open to communicate with their teams, wonderful things can happen. A little empathy is the missing ingredient between good leaders and great leaders.  

At our organisation, we’ve always tried to be empathetic in our approach. We believe that our people are our first priority and have always encouraged everyone to treat each other with empathy. We follow the simple fundamental of—if they don’t grow, we don’t grow—which keeps us in check.  


In turbulent times like right now, here’s something all us leaders should focus on: 

1. Put people first 

It’s clear now more than ever that people should be our first focus. Everyone is trying to adjust to a ‘New Normal’. Balancing their work and home duties, not everyone is having the most comfortable routine right now. Responsibilities have shot up and people are struggling to figure it out. While it is important to think about sustaining your agency business, don’t forget to take care of your people—their needs, their salaries. Their livelihoods are in your hands, and it matters how you handle it specially at a time like this. Put people before your business, because without your people, the business won’t exist anyway. 

2. An open environment for communication and effective feedback

There are a lot of things that may not be working smoothly anymore. Maybe the policies that worked in office were great, but they aren’t ideal in the New Normal. Keep an open mind and communicate often with your team to understand if there are any things that can be done better. Taking feedback and working on it would be the best way to go about things right now. Giving your people honest and clear communication about everything the business is going through is important, since they are as invested in the company as you are.

3. Keep employees motivated, keep them together 

Times like these evoke instability, anxiety and other insecurities within humans and it’s important to give them comfort and understanding on how things are going to change. While not every company can afford to make big gestures, you can do it in simpler ways. Trusting them to do work at their comfort, getting them together in engaging activities, celebrating the smaller things—a new account bagged, a team tried something new, making them feel part of a larger group—somewhere they belong is essential in a time when people are social distancing. The connect is what motivates them to do better and keeps their mental health in check. Contribute in whatever simple way you can, because it will matter. 


Show compassion. Be empathetic and understand what life is like in their shoes, right now and otherwise. Even if you can’t alleviate the uncertainty of the moment right now, you can still provide a sense of comfort and stability. And that will help you go a long way as a leader.

Let’s all remember, that below all of our designations, we are all human and we all need someone to show empathy at some point. Don’t forget to do your bit! 

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