Research aligns with our own experience: We are more likely to innovate, collaborate and be resilient, when backed by a supportive leader. Not a leader who only cares, but one whom we believe in, and whose style and vision motivates and inspires us.  The most sought-after leaders are purpose and people focused, and do two things exceptionally well:*

  • Empathize
  • Empower

Doing only one will limit innovation, trust and accountability.** So how do each of these leadership behaviours present themselves? We’ve listed 5 proven ways below. How well do you do each?

  1. Deep listening

We know that feeling heard and having someone we look up to and clarify back what they have heard us say, is hugely validating, reassuring and encourages us to trust and share ideas and information. Listening is a powerful way to establish connection and shared understanding.

  1. Ask great questions

Leaders who foster high performance on their teams, despite ongoing uncertainty and change, help people to think through complexity and have new insights. This means they ask open-ended questions, without rushing people into action, directing the conversation, or jumping in early with their own thoughts. This is more likely to lead to people having powerful new insights and launching into inspired action. Ask more. Tell less. Be curious.

  1. Offer choice

Having options and choices in our work is hugely rewarding and motivating and shows you care about what works best for peoples’ needs.  Look for simple ways to show flexibility and give options and choices about how and when people get their work done.

  1. Boost status

We all have an innate drive to protect, and increase, our sense of status; our need to feel valued, respected, and acknowledged for our contribution and efforts. Courteous greetings and heartfelt positive recognition go a long way in fuelling high motivation and performance.

  1. Encourage creativity

Now more than ever, organizations are having to pivot and adapt to new ways of doing things. This requires leaders to model, encourage and reward creativity, and adopt and test new thinking and ideas. This is where empathy and empowerment really are critical:  Care enough to back someone who challenges the status quo, and empower them to take action on it, no matter what the outcome. That’s innovation in action.

In our next blog we will look at courage and the brain, and how it applies to leadership.

 * ‘How to Lead in the Stakeholder Era’, HBR, May 13, 2021.

**’ Does Capitalism Need a Soul Transplant?’, Gallup, April 28, 2021.