5 reasons empathy is the most important leadership skill

According to studies carried out by Development Dimensions International (DDI), empathy is the biggest single leadership skill needed today. According to Richard S. Wellins, senior vice president of DDI, “Being able to listen and respond with empathy is overwhelmingly the one interaction skill that outshines all other skills.” Other research has backed up DDI findings. Dianne Crampton at Gonzaga University found that “Empathy is a universal team value that promotes high commitment and cooperation in the workplace.”

Some companies believe that empathy is so important that they send managers to “empathy training.” According to the Wall Street Journal 20% of employers now offer empathy training, which is up substantially from 10 years prior.

Here are five reasons that empathy is becoming the number one leadership skill:


One of the struggles that every organization faces is retaining talented staff. One of the most common cited reasons for people leaving an organization is lack of trust in and appreciation from those they report to. Empathy increases trust, a sense that staff are valued and cared about. Whether in our personal relationships or part of an organization, we will be more likely to stay when we feel like we are heard, appreciated, and cared about.


Have you ever noticed that when someone close to you notices how you are feeling or tells you much they appreciate something you have done for them? You automatically have the urge to do more for them. In terms of employee engagement, it is known that when leadership demonstrates to employees that they care, the reciprocity reaction kicks in and they want to put in more effort. Somehow many organizations miss this basic, yet very important point when it comes to leadership behaviors. Successful organizations are aware of this and their leaders continuously look for ways to notice, compliment, and find ways to show their appreciation to their staff.

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