Why empathy is the most important leadership skill in 2022

Compassionate leadership is the key differentiator between a good manager and a great one

Why empathy is the most important leadership skill in 2022

This article was written in conjunction with Overlap Associates

For Brock Hart, CEO of Overlap Associates, his core aim is helping clients find creative outcomes to timeless problems - all without placing any bias on the issues at hand. As a design consultancy & professional development organization, Overlap’s Creative Problem Solving School has a plethora of courses to help leaders with an array of challenges.

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“For us, it's not necessarily about what we think a client should do,” Hart told HRD. “It's always contextual to their situation, wherever they're at right now, whoever their customers or stakeholders are. And so, a lot of our work is about really trying to live empathy – that’s an unsung business skill. Empathy is one of the most important leadership traits around right now. Really understanding how to put that to work is going to be critical moving forward.”

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that compassionate leadership is the key differentiator between a good manager and a great one. The pandemic upended our priorities, changed the way we think about and approach work – as such, leadership also needs to change. One of the main outcomes of the past few months is a desire to upskill, with employees looking to develop themselves in order to enhance their career trajectory.

At Overlap, their courses are designed to help employees and their managers think on their feet – all the while instilling a culture of compassion and understanding into the mix.

“Our courses are there to build skills around empathy,” added Hart. “It’s about understanding what empathy is – what it looks like and how you actually embody it. We support leaders in a different way – we teach them to be more authentically compassionate. When you're an empathetic leader, wherever you are in the organization, you demonstrate care and concern and understanding around employees.

“For HR leaders, we’ve had so many calls for equity and inclusion changes, for cultures to adapt and evolve. I think empathy is one of the best ways to achieve this.  After all, how do we solve these problems if we can't see the human in each other? That’s where our design-thinking, completely human-centred, focus comes in.”

Overlap has already helped over 200 organizations in the past 10 years – boasting over 1,000 alums, all having graduated from their courses. The need for compassion and care in leadership wasn’t simply a pandemic trend – it’s a bona fide necessity in modern leadership – one that needs to continue when COVID has long gone.

Read more: Canadian National Railway mandates vaccines for employees

“People are just so burned out right now,” Hart told HRD. “Working from home can lead to a culture of overtime, people have lost their jobs, they’re dealing with childcare – it’s a stressful time. Empathy can really help here too. Having compassion at work helps in these moments of crisis, we’re able to demonstrate that we recognize and acknowledge and care about people's life circumstances and situations. In short, human-centred design doesn't just apply to customers or clients, but also helps place that overall importance on employee wellbeing.”

Learn more how Overlap’s Creative Problem Solving School can help you here.

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