Leaders are required by their teams to provide emotional support.
Sometimes that support can simply be provided through actions. Leaders can help their teams with their decision-making, communication, as well as questions. Any of these can help the team settle and develop the thinking they need to know what to do next.
But sometimes it is based on their presence and willingness to show empathy. This can result in a drain of energy. Empathy can easily pull people towards wanting to agree which creates a tension between what the leader wants and what the team wants. But it’s a false tension as empathy is less about agreeing than about seeing the other in their context. The ability to show empathy thus requires the ability to step in the other’s shoes and the effort of trying to understand what it is the other may be struggling with and asking empathy for.
It means to put one’s frame of reference aside for a while and explore what their frame of reference may be at that moment. It’s a situation that also requires one to put one’s own emotions aside to let oneself connect with other people’s emotions.
Thus, leaders juggle not only with their own experience of the situation but also with other people’s experience of the situation. Going back and forth between both requires an energy that may not always be available as well as an openness to foreign experience that can challenge one’s own experience. Beyond costing energy, it thus may also cause some distress.
Such situations cannot be handled well without empathy toward oneself. Nor without acknowledging that offering empathy is a choice.