July 2, 2024 Linda Greaves

3 Steps to Empathetic and Effective Leadership

How do you jump from managing to empathetic leadership? Valorie Tate, CEO of Sustain Beauty Co, shares her advice.


Why is effective leadership so important right now? Beauty is in the grip of a recruitment and retention crisis. As new talent proves ever hard to attract, and experienced stylists are choosing self-employment or deserting to other industries, a new urgency is coalescing around how we organize our teams. The classic managerial approach of focusing on tasks, not people; dictating actions rather than coaching; and looking to short-term goals rather than long-term strategies doesn’t work in an industry where individuality is part of the DNA. It certainly doesn’t work when a business leader wants to drive change. The latest research is increasingly focusing on empathetic leadership, where thought leaders claim results in team stability and growth. It’s a key tenant of sustainability, your team and your business. But how do you jump from managing to empathetic leadership? Here, Valorie Tate, CEO of Sustain Beauty Co, shares three steps to take.

1. Change starts with you.

To be an empathetic leader means being self-aware, so that you can recognize how others feel and think. This can start with reflection on your emotional response to change or in-salon drama and to recognize your ingrained bias, your triggers and how you communicate. Seeking out feedback from others helps you gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Greater self-knowledge will make it easier to empathize with your team and lead with more compassion and understanding, which, in turn, will make them more resilient and open to change.

2. Listen first, question after.

Probably the hardest part for any leader is active listening. Hearing what is said is different to understanding what is said. Learn to listen without interruption or distraction. Maintain eye contact and open body language, then respond with open-ended questions to encourage greater openness. Consider taking the individual into a private area, so you can give them your full attention. Try to see beyond the words to the non-verbal cues and hints, even if they are hard to hear, to understand the perspective and emotions of the speaker. Active listening helps foster trust and communication, building loyalty and respect that will see you through change.

3. Lead by example.

You have the power to shape the culture of your business. If you promote empathy as a core value and practice it daily, it will encourage your team to be more empathetic towards one another, leading to greater collaboration, teamwork and support. Reinforce this culture shift with training and resources and making time for team discussions, where you prove your willingness to embrace their ideas and suggestions. It takes time to transition, and there will be setbacks, but they are part of the process. By committing to the transformation while recognizing your mistakes, you are already actively leading your team using empathy and example.


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