How to Build Empathy as a Leader

And if it’s real real love then you make sacrifices
To get ahead man you gotta make sacrifices –Big Sean

As a leader, becoming empathetic is one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face. Here is the most powerful thought experiment I’ve found to catalyze empathy in myself, and get a better handle on my emotions:

Write down or talk through the sacrifices others have made for you. Who loves you and how have they shown it? After reflecting on those moments, I find myself emotionally available and ready to empathize. Leaders have to be able to *accurately* remember and reflect on the sacrifices loved ones have made for them. After that, try reflecting on the sacrifices made by those in your industry that have opened new frontiers, or those that built the infrastructures that your business runs on.

Empathy isn’t easy. But you can always catalyze empathy when you reflect on the sacrifices of others. If you’re unafraid to truly examine the sacrifices made by people who love you, when the time comes, you can be in a position to make sacrifices for them.

Making the right personal sacrifices for others is difficult, and in some ways it is the foundational skill of any leader. The goal in becoming empathetic is to help create situations for the people you love or lead (ideally both!) that make them feel WONDERFUL. And when you make someone feel wonderful, you usually can’t help but feel wonderful in return.

Empathy is the art of remembering when others have helped make you feel wonderful, and then paying that feeling forward to others.

I’ll let Maya Angelou take it away,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”