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Empathy: A Female Leader’s Greatest Superpower

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We all know the stereotype: Successful leaders are rational, assertive, linear and in complete control of their emotions. 

But who said empathy wasn’t a necessary skill to be successful?

We are obviously huge fans of Wonder Woman here at Gild. In Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film, Patty Jenkins reflected on the greatest superpower of all: "...to be strong enough to love in the face of darkness is the thing that sets Wonder Woman apart from so many before her.” Empathy was Wonder Woman’s greatest superpower. 

What exactly is empathy? 

According to Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman, empathy can be defined as (1) understanding the emotional makeup of people and (2) treating people according to their emotional reactions.  People tuned into their sense of empathy are better at building relationships, trust, and collaborating more effectively. Conversely, people with low empathetic skills are more likely to handle conflicts poorly, be insensitive to signs and signals for help, and alienate colleagues and team members.

Ok, what can an empathetic leader bring to their team?

Henry Ford once said that if there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in another person’s place and to see things from his or her point of view –as well as from one’s own. An empathetic leader has the ability to acknowledge that everyone sees the world through different perspectives without judgement. They are able to relate to openly communicate with their team and understand when they are struggling. In short, an empathetic leader is able to listen to their team, not fix or solve or dictate; therefore, building up their team for success.

How is empathy different from sentimental?

It is a common misconception that an empathetic female leader is just someone who is really nice. But being empathetic doesn’t mean being nice all of the time. It is more defined by understanding everyone’s feelings. We’re all human. We have fears and weaknesses, as well as opinions that deserve to be shared. And of course people have problems and worries, and those should be addressed and acknowledged, and treated with tenderness. However, successful woman show their leadership qualities by understanding, without allowing sentimentality to disrupt production.

For some business leaders, empathy is a luxury they don’t think they can afford. Many see it as an indulgence rather than an effective way to manage people. Little value is given in making employees feel good about themselves. However, Forbes put together a panel of experts on this very topic. According to them, empathy leads to happy employees, and happy employees are PRODUCTIVE employees. We strongly encourage you to flex your empathy muscle and embrace your leadership superpower to lead your team successfully.

Clearly having diversity in the workplace, especially strong female leaders who are empathetic, makes sense for businesses. However, if you still need some convincing read, “Why Your Company Should Invest In Gender Diversity,” on our blog today!