Daniel Goleman (1998) listed empathy as one of the important components of emotional intelligence and stated it to be the most easily recognized dimension. A person can have the best training in the world, possess an incisive and analytical mind or even the supply of endless ideas, but still would not make a good leader. Goleman further argued that emotional intelligence not only distinguishes the most outstanding leaders but can also be linked with to strong performance. It is a common characteristic that people who are successful either as business leaders, teachers, parents, individuals or any other given profession to be empathic. Empathic people are able to put themselves into the shoes of others and able to see the world through the other person’s eye. Empathy is the ability of to understand the emotional make up of other people. It is the awareness of other people’s feelings, needs and concerns (Goleman, 1998).Empathy has been argued to be the most crucial factors of leaders due to the need to increase the use of teams, rapid change of globalization and the need to retain talent (Goleman et. al, 2004). Leaders need empathy to be able to develop and keep their best people; the reasoning behind this is that when people leave an organization they take the knowledge of their organization with them.
Empathy in leadership would involve the consideration of other people feelings especially when making decisions and this may aid in the attraction and retention of talent and the ability of developing others. Empathy would also make a leader sensitive to the cross-cultural differences that exist in his/her organization and hence decision making would consider these differences. Empathic leaders would also lead their organizations into offering the best and quality service to their customers as their feelings and emotions are usually factored before services are offered to them. Leading a team can prove to be a challenging exercise in that they comprise of people with different emotions and are often charged with reaching a consensus. A good team leader would be able to sense and understand each and everyone’s viewpoints around the table. It is through empathy that a leader may be able to understand the emotional makeup of a team. Good leaders not only use empathy to sympathize with people around them but also use it to improve their companies in subtle or important ways.
Coaching and mentoring are gaining the appeal in most companies with the need of developing skills in their staff. This is usually done through training programs or the procuring of external services. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in the coaching and mentoring of people. A coach or mentor, for this case the leader, has to read the feelings of their coaches and use that ability to gain the trust and credibility with their staff. Gardenswartz et al., (2008) hold the view that emotional intelligence would help a mentor build strong relationships with their mentees or team members. A coach or mentor with emotional intelligence would have a better understanding and the ability of managing emotions from their athletes and themselves. Gaining a mutual trust between the coach and the athlete is the principal importance of a successful coaching or mentoring program.
Diversity in an organization would enrich its ability to respond to its customers or stakeholders with more innovative and creative products and solutions hence the need of applying emotional intelligence in the building and maintaining relationships. Social awareness would enable a leader understand the emotions of their team members. Empathy would enable a leader maximize on of the diversity of his/her team members since this offers an opportunity for the cultivation of different opportunities. Emotional intelligence would also enable a leader deal positively with the inherent threatening existence of dealing with people from different cultures and with different beliefs.
Gardenswartz, L., Cherbosque, J., & Rowe, A. (2008). Emotional intelligence for managing results in a diverse world: The hard truth about soft skills in the workplace. Mountain View, Calif: Davies-Black Pub.
Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2004). Primal leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.