About people skills and empathic leadership

In on of my last posts I have discussed how leadership can have a real impact on ‘human capital’ in a world that seems to rotate faster every day. As a conclusion, I said that every leader can make a real difference if he/she is able to create the conditions that allow qualified staff members to feel at ease at their workplace and identify with the corporate culture. But what does it take to “lead through example”? How can you foster the so important climate of trust and transparency, allowing for growth and personal satisfaction? I guess that there is no standard answer to this question as every person leads in a very particular way bringing distinct results to a specific type of situation.

For me personally, the most important skill set to have and to make use of when leading are the so called ‘people skills’. Whereas non-existent in many dictionaries, there are a number of definitions around such as: “the ability to communicate effectively with people in a friendly way, especially in business” [1] or:

  • “understanding ourselves and moderating our responses
  • talking effectively and empathizing accurately
  • building relationships of trust, respect and productive interactions.”[2]

Together with other social or interpersonal skills such as listening, communication etc., mastering people skills and even becoming a “people’s person”[3] will help you motivate and drive your employees achieving better results than ever before. In applying these skills to your day-to-day life, you will find that suddenly you will be leading simply with charisma and empathy and that there is actually no need to create an atmosphere and culture of fear as can be observed unfortunately in many enterprises nowadays, public and private sector alike.

Especially in matrix environments where leaders need to engage with members of “virtual teams”, who are not necessarily their direct reports and could be based anywhere in the world plus where communication happens mostly exclusively through e-mail, calls and video-conferences, social skills are more important than ever to achieve results and objectives.[4] In fact, the ability to create and foster quality networks, to ‘think outside of the box’ and to create a climate of exchange, knowledge sharing and trust while leading is of major importance for providing direction and innovation to any company. So while it is certainly not easy to build up relationships and interact closely with people, the loyalty and positive attitude that come out of these skills and leadership style are more than rewarding.

Many companies and enterprises though still need to acknowledge the importance of people skills and consequent leadership behaviors instead of relying solely on extrinsic motivation measures and tactics. If more people started to lead and manage this way, work place happiness and work-life balance would certainly see a major improvement… to be continued!


[2] Portland Business Journal by Harriet Rifkin: http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2002/06/03/focus6.html

[3] Oxford Online Dictionary: “a person who enjoys or is particularly good at interacting with others”

[4] Also compare with : Rick Lash: “Leadership Essentials for the matrix environment”, http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2012/06/leadership-essentials-for-matrix.html?m=1

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