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HomeInspireWhy 2024 Needs to be the Year of the Empathetic Leader 

Why 2024 Needs to be the Year of the Empathetic Leader 

A world of continued segregation and bias is changing our need in the workplace 

Words by Mimi Nicklin 

Will this year be the year empathetic leadership truly takes the global stage? As we enter 2024 we can look forward to another year of complex debate as we face a record-breaking 40 elections scheduled around the world, representing more than 40% of the world’s population and an outsized chunk of global GDP. 

The outcomes of these, both collectively and separately, will help determine who controls and directs the 21st-century world. In the process, they will undoubtedly segregate and disseminate conflict and isolation in our workplaces as these collective spaces fuse an array of personal opinions. As leaders this marks the fourth year in a row where we face the need to navigate the ongoing and changeable complexities of performance impacted by our social, human condition. For many of us, we still feel entirely underprepared. 

Today we are seeing the weakest of our shared mutual understanding in our workplaces as our Global Empathy Deficit continues beyond the three decades it has already been in place. There has never been a time when we need more understanding and open communication from our leaders and yet we are not training our senior managers and teams anywhere near enough to face the realities they sit within. According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that organisations with open communication channels are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers, and yet today only 32% of employees feel that their leaders are genuinely transparent. 

As human beings, we emote before we reason. Neuroscience has proven this. For many years we chose to believe that we are primarily rational beings in the workplace, but it has been proven over and again that it is our emotional responses to society around us that has the most impact on our health, our businesses performance and our workplace culture. Confusion, uncertainty, anger, fear, anxiety, desperation, panic, loneliness.  

Emotions that change the way we connect to each other at work and the extent to which we are able to build and maintain organisational relationships and performance as a team. The more prominent these emotions become outside of work, the less empathy we see within our workplaces at just the time when we need more of it. Despite an intellectual desire to respond to the challenges at hand with unshakeable calm, courage and optimism, it is our natural human responses that will drive the state of workplace engagement – if we don’t intervene. 2024 must therefore become the year empathy goes mainstream in the business world if we are to bring employee connection, cohesion and communication to the fore for the good of our organisational growth and employee cohesion and retention. It is up to leadership teams to actively ensure we address this. 

From an evolutionary point of view human beings do better when they are together. From an organisational strategy point of view, teams win when they work together. In order to continue to offer the resilience and endurance to perform in 2024 employees will be subconsciously demanding a far higher level of mutual connectivity and open communication from those who lead, mentor and engage them. The most fundamental human need to be ‘seen’ and to be ‘heard,’ will be elevated as the country is challenged over such a continued and extended period of time. As leaders, as politicians and as Chief Talent Officers we need to recognize the impact of this human fundamental on our sustained organisational success. 

This can be easier said than done. When we are in ‘survival’ mode, the self – a more ego centric, protectionist and introverted focus – takes over, and we find it far harder to activate the parts of the brain responsible for empathy. Research shows that people will cognitively turn off empathy when they feel like they are unable to help someone, or respond, in the way they ideally want to.  

However, the ability to connect empathically with others at work is fundamental to driving up a high percentage of all corporate KPI’s. Research has proven time and again that far from being an immutable trait, empathy can be developed and improved and that it is a choice, a skillset and a data set for leadership teams. Now it the time to train at large. 

In 2024, it will be the leaders who elevate our understanding of this deficit of humanity’s greatest leadership trait that win. Emotional management, and specifically our team empathy for each other, will be simultaneously one of the greatest challenges and greatest opportunities to make this year the year we turn social turmoil into business triumph. 

Mimi Nicklin is a Bestselling Author and CEO with over 12,500 students all over the world. She specialises in Listening-Led Leadership, and the balance of humanism and capitalism in the workplace. She is the Founder of the Empathy Everywhere Academy, the world’s widest reaching training platform to use emotional intelligence, team communication and empathy led leadership to drive transformational change. Her podcast, MimiYouYou, is growing at over 800% a month and her second leadership book is out mid 2024.  You can find her @miminicklin across social media or via www.empathyeverywhere.co 

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