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Quality #2: How to Show Up As An Empathetic and Emotionally Intelligent Leader

While preparing to write my new book, Healing Leadership: How to Lead, Love, and Thrive in Business and Life, I interviewed 41 industry experts and uncovered 21 qualities leaders need during these difficult times to not only survive but thrive.

In this article, I discuss quality #2. A healing leader is empathetic and emotionally intelligent.

This topic is most likely one that you've heard about. As we delve into it, perhaps you'll gain a new perspective and reframe what you already know about it. Or, if you haven't had it on your radar, this is an opportunity to bring it into your awareness and apply it so that you can become a more effective, influential, and inclusive leader.

Be Empathetic

Many of us understand what being empathetic is. It's having the ability to understand other people's emotions, even when we're not the ones going through whatever situation that person is going through. It means you can put yourself in somebody else's shoes and see the issue from their perspective, through their lenses.

As parents, friends, daughters, sons, we experience this during our upbringing and raising our children. Over the years, we develop the ability to feel for others, even when you're not the one going through a bad experience or a happy moment—but simply rejoicing with them and celebrating with them or mourning, grieving with them.

As a leader, imagine how empowering it would be to put yourself in your employee's shoes, in your team's shoes. Imagine looking at the problem from the level of resources that they have, or from the ideas that they're looking at things from, or the constraints and risks that they see that you may not be able to see.

Imagine how valuable it will be for you as a business owner or leader within an enterprise to have the ability to be empathetic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed brought us together in many ways. You and your team members encountered a business environment with unique challenges. We've been in each other's living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens over the past 18 months. We've reached a new level of professional intimacy we had not experienced.

Being an empathetic leader also means connecting on a human level and asking, "How are things going for you since the last time we spoke?" and creating the space to listen to the answer versus plowing through and interrupting. Instead, we are really listening to what they are going to say.

The ability to make those types of empathetic connections with your team, peers, and managers pays dividends. Reciprocate, make it a two-way street. When you get the question, "How's it going? How are you doing?" make sure that after you finish answering, you ask the other person, "How about you, how are you doing?"

Your manager is human too.

Sometimes we think that when we're speaking to our managers, it's only a one-way street, that only they get to ask the questions. You get to ask questions too. So don't waste those opportunities by letting them go by. Please take advantage of them and use them to build trust and deepen your relationships.

Be Emotionally Intelligent

Another dimention of leadership quality #2, being an empathetic leader, is also being an emotionally intelligent leader.

I'm going to break down this concept into four components. I've gleaned a great deal about emotional intelligence from the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Dr. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

First, being emotionally intelligent means being aware of your emotions (self-awareness). Once you become aware of those emotions, it's also managing them and responding vs. reacting (self-management).

The third component of emotional intelligence is the ability to sense other people's emotions (social awareness), which is crucial to being empathetic. It's impossible to be compassionate if we don't possess social awareness about how people around us feel, reflected by how they show up.

And finally, the fourth component of emotional intelligence is building relationships—because of being self-aware and in touch with your emotions, "responding" based on the feelings you're experiencing, and noticing others' emotions with empathy. You leverage the first three components of emotional intelligence to build constructive and productive relationships.—professional, friendships, and intimate ones.

Bringing It All Together

Being an empathetic and emotionally intelligent leader is essential. I've been applying these qualities with clients, addressing their concerns, becoming aware of how I'm feeling, as well as where they are when we connect. I take the time to check in with them, with my team.

On days when I'm not feeling at my best, for whatever reason, I proceed with caution because I recognize it. I check myself so that I don't inadvertently take things personally or react from a trigger.

Showing up empathetic and emotionally intelligent makes you a safe leader.

Safe leaders create a safe space for people to self-express without judgment or feeling that they have to perform for you. Instead, you allow them to show up with professionalism, ready to embrace the problem at hand and offer solutions.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to be self-aware of how we behave within and outside the organization. For example, I've heard feedback from a client expressing that her manager doesn't let her speak or present without permission. In this example, the manager happens to be a woman. Here's a woman preventing another woman from speaking in meetings. Regardless of gender, the manager appears disconnected and not aware of the negative impact that her behavior is having on her team.

As leaders, it always starts with us. Developing our ability to empathize and our emotional intelligence precedes building powerful relationships with our team and in our personal life. The alternative is walking around placing blame, oblivious to the consequences of our words and our actions, which destroys relationships.

I'm going to leave you with this last piece of advice. People whose imperative is to build relationships will show up differently than people whose primary goal is to look good or impress others. Pay attention to what is most important to you because you will behave and speak differently based on your answer.

When your objective is to build relationships, you uplift others and bring your best self forward. While doing this, you grow, develop, and reach your full leadership potential while encouraging your team and creating an inclusive work culture where members feel valued for their superpowers and contributions. You have them, and they have them too.

To assess how you're showing up as a leader, consider these questions:

How are you empathetic?

To check your emotional intelligence, reflect on these:

  1. How is your self-awareness?

  2. How do you self-regulate when having a "bad day?"

  3. Are you able to notice other people's moods?

  4. How do you use this information to manage your responses while interacting with others?

As your ally and advocate, you can reach us at to set up a complimentary strategy session and explore how our programs can help you rise to your full leadership potential.

In the meantime, be fearless! (act despite the fear)

Coach Ginny 💕

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About Dr. Ginny A. Baro

Dr. Ginny A. Baro is a sought-after international motivational speaker & leadership coach, a career strategist, and #1 bestselling author of Fearless Women at Work.

Ginny specializes in partnering with organization to develop leadership teams at all levels of management. And she supports individuals navigating a corporate hierarchy or moving into an entirely new phase of their career. She has successfully facilitated live and virtual leadership training and coaching programs for individuals and Fortune 500 companies with over 140,000 employees and delivered keynotes impacting international audiences larger than 7,000. To learn more, visit ExecutiveBound.

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