Back in April 2016, only 15% of UK voters picked Jeremy Corbyn as the best leader for this country, fast forward just over a year and that number has more than doubled to 35%, a 1% lead on Theresa May; making it the first time that a Labour leader has polled ahead of a Tory leader since 2008. What makes this shift even more remarkable is the speed in which Corbyn has won the hearts of many. Labour’s hopeful manifesto inspired young voters across the country, and their turnout was more than 60%. Corbyn’s recent rock star welcome at Glastonbury, which drew one of the festival’s biggest crowds ever, was an even bigger stamp on his popularity.
Whilst May was receiving backlash for her out-of-touch manifesto, that led to an infamous U-turn, and running away from debates, the Labour leader was meeting voters and listening to their concerns. Whilst May has always had a clinical and hard-lined view on many topics that people in the UK want to protect, like the NHS or the funding of emergency services, Corbyn has never been afraid of showing his human side, guiding the nation through times of grief and speaking for those who may not have a voice. Though some may argue that his popularity has been boosted because of her inadequacy, one must ask what it is that is making Corbyn more and more liked by the British public? The simple answer to that is empathy. This was very apparent with his reaction to the terrible Grenfell Tower tragedy. He wasted no time in going straight to the scene and consoling survivors and families of victims. Theresa May however, stayed away and was heavily criticised as a result.
Empathy isn’t about being nice; it’s about appreciating someone else’s viewpoint. It allows you to create bonds of trust, and if you manage teams and drive continuous improvement, it enables you to understand how or why your employees react to change in a certain way, so you can help them see the need for it and therefore take ownership. Being empathetic towards customers is also vital if you want to grow. Progressive companies, almost without exception, are experts at sensing customers’ discomfort and acting on it, feeling their pain before they do.
However, real empathy requires going beyond the Band-Aid solution and investing in an actual cure. It’s rarely easy, and the process of getting to the core of the problem is sometimes expensive, but it’s where true innovation comes from and can reap huge rewards.
One of the main characteristics of a successful business is the ability to constantly push and dominate unfamiliar territory. This allows the creativity within your team to flourish, giving your company the opportunity to grow and be innovative; without this, you’ll end up becoming stagnated and eventually fade away. Empathy in its purest form drives business forward.
As many know, the traditional workplace is competitive and cut-throat, so the concept of empathy is contradictory to the ‘old-school’ way of working. The reality is however, for leaders and businesses to experience significant and longstanding success, they need to relate to their people and customers they serve.