Why Empathy Is The Most Effective Leadership Skill

Discussions around empathy in business may seem trendy, but that doesn’t mean that empathy isn’t important. In fact, empathy is the number one skill any effective leader needs in order to truly inspire the people who work with them.If I’ve learned anything from starting my own company, it’s that entrepreneurship starts with an individual’s desire to solve a problem or problems. But as the company grows, one also has to grow into much more than just an entrepreneur.  In order to succeed as a company, I have learned that it is less about your individual need or desire, but more about surrounding yourselves with talented people and together, as a tribe, working towards something that otherwise cannot be achieved individually.

That’s probably why author and leadership expert Tom Peters famously said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”  More than ever, with the number of startups and opportunities available to this generation, an effective leader realizes that they need to surround themselves with not only people who work for them, but peers, advisors and mentors of their own in order to succeed.

This is precisely why I join peer organizations: to facilitate and build a community of the best and brightest startup founders and entrepreneurs. In working with these communities, I learned the many benefits of leaders acting as mentors for other leaders, resulting in better businesses that, in turn, help create a better society for everyone.

Mentorship spreads empathy

Discussions around empathy in business may seem trendy, but that doesn’t mean that empathy isn’t important. In fact, empathy is the number one skill any effective leader needs in order to truly inspire the people who work with them.

One of a mentor’s best leadership tools is their empathy, giving them the ability to understand and connect with other leaders. Those empathetic qualities are then passed down, building leaders that are not divorced from the needs and of the people around them. To foster a new generation of leaders and, in the process, build a thriving community and sense of purpose around it, the first step should always be to develop a sense of empathy. This in turn motivates them to become the catalysts for change as the leaders, pioneers and trailblazers of tomorrow.

Mentorship creates social impact

As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in The Tipping Point, in order for any idea to create true social impact, it must reach the tipping point when it crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire. Leaders can help other leaders reach that tipping point.

It can be easy for startup CEOs to get trapped in the cycle of building a business without a true purpose, but experienced leaders know that real success comes from building something that will change people’s lives. First and foremost, a business is only successful if it provides a product or service that not only solves a problem for the users, but also inspires them to do more than what the idea was designed to do.

By reinforcing a purpose-driven message, seasoned CEOs influence the new generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, helping them understand that the ideas that truly impact people emotionally are the ones that will create true social impact.

Mentorship fosters technology for good

As technologies continue to evolve rapidly, this new generation of business leaders are not only tech-savvy, but they are leveraging emerging technology in ways that were never thought possible. That’s why it’s important to build communities where CEOs can debate and learn from mentors how best to use these technologies for the good of everyone.

Organizations are already doing a lot to create forums and tools so that entrepreneurs can apply tech in more thoughtful ways. The continuing conversation amongst these leaders is encouraging, and helps propagate the idea that the world will continue to get better when technologies will be used appropriately to improve all our lives.

A community of leaders can affect change

The new generation of founders and entrepreneurs is extremely digital-savvy and resourceful.  They have easy access to hundreds of free online resources to help with their startups and know how to find them.  But they also believe their needs and challenges are unique, and most importantly, timely and urgent.

This is why fostering a community among CEOs — whether through digital platforms, social networking or physical gatherings and events — is so important. It fulfills a crucial need for entrepreneurs who seek deeper engagement with others who are having the same challenges and those who have successfully overcome said challenges.

Read more: War for Talent on a Local Level—The Case for Collaboration

For those interested, Chief Executive Network has more on joining a peer network here.