People placed in positions of leadership, whether intentionally or not, possess certain qualities. Decisiveness, emotional stability, attention to detail, the ability to follow through on projects, and general enthusiasm are all necessary traits for leaders. However, there is one trait that is often overlooked, although it is possessed by all great leaders–empathy.

The Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as, “the ability to understand and share the feeling of another.” After highlighting the fact that empathy is an important leadership trait, it can almost seem obvious. However, so many people in leadership positions, such as office managers, politicians, educators, community leaders, have seemed to overlook this fact. They treat their employees and constituents as if they are cogs in the wheel of a great machine. When they receive backlash or uncooperativeness as a reflex, they are often stunned and vent about how they are not being respected.

Regardless of the leadership position in question, there is a simple fact that can’t be ignored or bypassed; you have to deal with people. Dealing with people is an incredibly complex and delicate task. More often than not, a leader’s ability to see through a certain task is dependent on their team and their associates. If this team is treated like a machine, its members will feel resentful and will not give their best work.

It is imperative that leaders take the time and the effort to get to know their subordinates on a personal level, seeing them as the valuable constituents they are. When this kind of empathy is shown, true respect is then given to the leader, and they are capable of anything. Being empathetic automatically halts such embarrassing acts as punishing and verbally flagellating workers when they have performed in a sub-par manner. Imagine how the worker must feel, who is constantly belittled and embarrassed in front of his/her coworkers. Such actions are degrading and lead to the death of ambition, and the death of the team as a functioning unit. The leader who ventures to put him or herself in the shoes of their subordinates is the only one who can earn the respect of the team and therefore, produce effective results.

In the world of leadership and human relations, the role of empathy is gaining recognition as the crucial element it truly is. As a leader, do yourself and your entire organization a favor and make it a point to practice empathy.