The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to face a new underlying baseline stress level. As a result, many of us recognize a renewed urgency to acknowledge where we are fortunate and show more empathy to others as we all deal with and react to this pandemic in very different ways, particularly in the workplace. As leaders, we need to recognize that nearly everyone is facing some loss due to the pandemic – be it the tragic loss of a loved one, a significant financial loss, or just the loss of the usual aspects of our daily lives -- and respond with grace.
It is now more evident than ever that business continuity starts with human connection. Like so many other leaders, I was faced with the following question:
how can I foster creative and productive solutions while still considering the overall health and well-being of my team members? I believe the answer lies in empathetic leadership.
Empathetic leadership is characterized by actively listening to your team, connecting dots across viewpoints, and making room for diverse voices to provide input into key decisions. As most of the world has transitioned to a remote workforce, I have found this leadership style more important than ever. Traditionally, we have evaluated our leaders by their accomplishments, qualifications, and specific skills, but leaders who gain the trust of their teams don’t do it on merit alone.
In today’s virtual world, leaders need to possess interpersonal skills and adapt their management styles to motivate their employees in unique ways.
Businesses that allow their employees to communicate what they need to be successful, for instance, awareness of parents juggling both work and childcare responsibilities, will see the greatest return in productivity and engagement.
Keeping your people at the center of everything you do as a leader is integral to success.
Here are my three tips for how to lead with empathy and keep employees engaged while working through the challenges 2020 has presented us:
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As a leader, I am challenging myself to reflect on whether I am surrounded by people who have experienced the world differently.
Organizations need diversity to accurately reflect their customer base and think creatively, inclusively, and ultimately foster solutions that haven't been seen before. With a focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion, empathetic leaders can create an organization focused on connection and motivation and foster a sense of belonging while increasing productivity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put everything into perspective and required change in every facet of how we do business, including leadership. Empathetic leaders who make time to reflect, check-in with their team, and challenge their own perspectives will be able to transition out of the pandemic stronger and more connected than before.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.


Amy Brachio