Effective leadership requires understanding of the needs of others without implying responsibility for employees, if necessary. With the increase in the workload and in the face of the current pandemic situation (Covid-19), this balance can become compromised, even for the most competent leaders.
“I see a lot of articles and quotes that focus solely on the importance of leaders expressing empathy. Leadership empathy is important but it is only part of the story. The truth is that one of the most empathic things a leader can do for their employees is to create a culture of accountability. These two concepts might sound like they are at odds with one another. However, have you worked on a team that lacked accountability? If the answer is yes, you probably experienced some of the following repercussions:”
- Low-performance levels
- Missed deadlines
- Lack of team trust
- Ongoing team conflict
Leaders that demonstrate healthy empathy understand that accountability is necessary for team members to have high levels of motivation, mutual trust, and performance. The best leaders strive to demonstrate both empathy and accountability because both are required to build a culture where employees can thrive.
3 Ways Accountability Demonstrates Leadership Empathy
1.Accountability Builds Team Trust
It is difficult to overstate the importance of establishing a standard of accountability to build trust in our professional relationships. Responsibility and trust are intertwined. And this relationship is increasingly evident as the teams work virtually in order to achieve their goals. In the HBR article, The Neuroscience of Trust, Paul Zak shared the importance of trust in organizations, as we can see: “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout.”
Thus, the role of the leader is to establish processes and behaviors that guarantee greater responsibility, since trust develops when the employees of a team understand and feel that their co-workers are trustworthy. As well as, when employees fulfill their commitments, trust is also built.
2.Accountability Creates Clear Expectations
A Gallup survey illustrates that setting clear expectations is one of the most fundamental elements for increasing employee engagement. They all need to know what is expected of the workplace. Having clear expectations allows employees to have more clarity, focus and, consequently, greater performance.
3.Accountability Enables Accomplishment
For an employee to trust his leader, it is important that the employee believes that the leader can help him at work, while maintaining a relationship of trust. Employees tend to have a sense of accomplishment when they work and achieve their goals. The book The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer describes what makes people happy, motivated, creative and productive in the workplace. These authors stated: “Of all the things that can increase emotions, motivation and perceptions during a working day, the most important thing is to make progress on meaningful work”.
When employees experience a sense of accomplishment in the workplace, they naturally increase their commitment and motivation. That is why leaders need to support behaviors and instill processes that allow employees to feel a sense of accomplishment and success in reaching goals.
Leaders who demonstrate healthy empathy are able to show awareness and concern for the needs of their employees, while establishing a culture in which employees become responsible for meeting agreed commitments. This is one of the many paradoxes of success-based leadership.