Tech Leadership, In So Many Words … #4 Empathy

Andrew Weaver
April 18, 2023

Back in 2020 during the darkest days of the lockdown here in Europe, we interviewed a range of technology leaders from around the world with one question asking …

“What are the key attributes of a successful tech leaders?”

Technology is clearly a given for any tech leader so let’s park that as a reply.

But when looking at the soft skills required to be an effective tech leader, the word empathy emerged as often as any other

Great leadership requires a fine mix of all kinds of skills to create the conditions for engagement, happiness and performance, but it’s empathy and emotional intelligence that often tops the list of what leaders must get right.

The reason empathy is so necessary is that employees, particularly in high pressure work environments, are experiencing multiple kinds of stress both at home and work, that recent pandemic not helping …

A global study on Mental Health by Qualtrics found 42% of people experienced a decline in mental health during the pandemic with 67% of people experiencing increases in stress 

And other studies show that negativity, rudeness and a general lack of care at work can have a significant impact on the performance and wellbeing of employees and team members.

Counter balance of this is that when leaders were reported as empathetic, employees were far more likely to be innovative and engaged

So this set off an internal debate here at CTO Academy about whether compassion (sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others) is a more effective leadership approach than empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another).

(Yes, we often split hairs here …)

What empathy is and should be …

it’s understanding an employee’s struggles, appreciating a person’s point of view and engaging in a healthy debate that builds to a better solution.

it’s considering a team member’s perspectives and making recommendations that help achieve greater success.

“people may not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel”

Empathy contributes to positive relationships and organizational cultures, which in turn drives results.

It may not be a new skill but it has a new level of importance and research makes it especially clear how empathy is the leadership competency to develop and demonstrate.

Want to find out more about CTO Academy and our Technology Leadership Courses, including lectures that look at Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Visit the CTO Academy Website and our executive leadership course, The Digital MBA for Technology Leaders

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