The older I get, the more experienced I get, the more I look into the literature of entrepreneurship, and leadership too, the more I appreciate the critical importance of empathy.
Empathy is feeling what another person feels. It’s being able to imagine what it’s like to be that other person. It’s understanding.
Empathy is the best trait in entrepreneurship. Why?
- Empathy sits at the core of the business idea or business model. Successful businesses give people something they want to have. They offer value. You just can’t do that without understanding what people want and need, and how they want to get it, and what they care about. Good businesses make people better off.
- Empathy drives marketing. You have to understand the person you’re trying to reach. Getting to know an ideal target customer is all about empathy. The stories that drive marketing are about the customer’s problem and customer needs and how to reach that customer. You can’t find a really good website, or software product, or ad that isn’t all about feeling what the user feels and seeing what the user sees. That’s empathy.
- Selling is all about empathy. Great salespeople understand customers’ problems and want to solve them. Great sales is 98 percent listening and two percent talking.
- Leadership is all about empathy. Leadership is human interaction. A leader, and a good boss, understands people and manages according to the person, the context, the specific situation. Always hard-ass won’t do it, but always too soft won’t do it either. It takes empathy.
And that’s just to get us started. If you think about it, you can come up with lots more points for that list.