When Dr. David Dao boarded his United Airlines flight on April 9, 2017, he had no idea the firestorm his experience with the airline would cause. We all remember the video: a passenger being dragged from his seat, his face bloodied, and onlookers horrified. We empathized with him to the highest extent; haven’t we all had miserable experiences with air travel?

Few were expecting United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz’s response to the incident. In an internal memo to UA staff, he characterized the situation as “re-accommodating the customer(s)” while describing Dr. Dao as “disruptive” and “belligerent.” His first two statements on the events of that day were labeled tone-deaf and insensitive, and they were sorely lacking in one of the greatest traits every great leader is required to have: empathy.

What makes a leader empathetic? And how does a leader display the empathy needed to command a cohesive and collaborative team? Two great questions, but first let’s tackle the basics.

Demystifying Empathy at Work

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It’s different from sympathy in that you aren’t feeling sorry or pity for someone; you are attempting to relate to them by feeling what they are feeling at any given moment.

Although many people view it as either nonessential or too difficult to try, empathy is a necessity in corporate culture; it is fundamental to creating great cultures and growing capable leaders. As Gen Y rises in the management ranks, and with Gen Z on the verge of entering the workforce, empathetic training leaders are crucial to retaining top talent in these younger generations.

According to the 2018 State of Workplace Empathy report, CEOs are beginning to see the light. Eighty-seven percent of CEOs (as well as 79 percent of HR professionals) agree that a company’s financial performance is tied to empathy. On the other end, 90 percent of employees are more likely to stay with an organization that empathizes with their needs, while 79 percent would consider leaving their organization if it became less empathetic.

Empathy is clearly important to retaining top talent. The issue is that many companies don’t know how to train their leaders and teams for empathy…

Read on to find out how to embed empathy in your organisation in this piece by Sharon Steed for TD magazine: https://www.td.org/insights/empathy-at-work-for-high-potential-young-leaders

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