The call for social skills in leadership (often referred to as ‘soft’ skills) and emotional intelligence (or ‘EQ’) isn’t anything new. You may not find these listed in the job spec, however more and more, companies are looking to recruit employees who can not only demonstrate outstanding expertise, but also collaborate and communicate on teams.
One of the most sought after skills under the EQ umbrella is empathy– the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, see things from their point of view and understand their thoughts and feelings.
However, as we try to keep pace with an ever-changing workplace, some would argue it’s something that definitely deserves a bigger share of the spotlight and should be prioritised. Belinda Parmar OBE is a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum, Chief Executive Officer of ‘The Empathy Business’ and creator of the world’s first ‘global empathy index’.
“For empathy to have lasting impact, companies must understand that it’s not a “soft skill”, but an urgently needed quality, and one that can contribute to commercial potential”.
According to research from the World Economic Forum, 35% of the skills necessary to thrive in a job today will be different five years from now. Parmar adds: “The great challenge of the next 10 years for corporations and institutions will be to rebuild the empathy that we’ve lost. Companies will be looking for leaders who are able to help them do that — people with a trio of technical, linguistic and mathematical skills, who can make sense of the torrents of information that will continue to emerge”
Even with advances in technology and artificial intelligence, there will be roles that still require strong human character traits, according to Vikas Pota, Chief Executive of the Varkey Foundation. “Workers will need empathy — the ability to persuade and to work well with others. They will need a positive attitude — the ability to relearn, go back to college, and adapt to new situations as old skills become obsolete. Thriving in this uncertain world, where careers could change every few years, will also require resilience”.
One of the skills we need to master in order to express empathy is the art of listening. And I don’t mean listening with the intent to speak, but really listening — seeking first to understand the other person. For tips on how to encourage effective listening, check out one of our recent blogs on this topic.
Read more here about leading with empathy and check out the 8 behaviours of the world’s most empathetic companies.
Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.