Essential Leadership Traits: Empathy and Curiosity

Karl Bimshas
5 min readJan 23, 2024
Essential Leadership Traits: Empathy and Curiosity by Karl Bimshas

Empathy and curiosity are traits a great leader instinctively calls upon and a lousy leader cannot comprehend.

Empathy is about warmth first, even without fully understanding the predicament. It is grace and compassion when hearing of someone else’s turmoil. It’s not a rush to problem-solve. Judgments are deferred. It’s pure heart and connection, if only for a moment. It costs the leader nothing and supplies those in pain a moment of ease.

Curiosity is a driving force for improvement. Increasing one’s wisdom and then the knowledge of others is a trait of an effective leader. They seek to understand, be it book smart, street smart, or a combination of both. They investigate and seek answers to problems. They don’t claim superior intellect and are always open to a better way. They are humble enough to not know something, and confident enough to admit it.

Lack of Empathy

Leaders who lack empathy are a significant risk to their teams’ emotional well-being and cohesion. Their communication style often leans towards harshness or dismissiveness, creating an environment where team members feel undervalued or disregarded.

Empathy is understanding and acknowledging different perspectives. Leaders who lack this crucial trait find themselves challenged when attempting to see situations from another point of view. This deficiency will result in a communication gap, where the leader fails to connect with the experiences and concerns of their team.

Leaders without empathy will downplay or completely ignore the emotional needs of their team members. This oversight leads to prioritizing tasks and results over the well-being of employees, creating an atmosphere where individuals are overlooked or undervalued. The consequences of such a leadership style include decreased morale, potential disengagement among team members, and a diminished sense of overall well-being.

Recognizing the pivotal role of empathy in leadership is crucial for creating a positive and supportive workplace. Leaders must actively work towards cultivating empathy to establish meaningful connections with their teams and ensure the success of both individuals and the organization.

Lack of Curiosity

A lack of curiosity is synonymous with a reluctance to embrace new ideas and explore innovative solutions. This closed-minded approach extends to being unreceptive to feedback, diverse perspectives, and alternative ways of doing things. Without a curious mindset, leaders risk becoming complacent, neglecting the vital investment in continuous learning essential for personal and organizational development.

Leaders who lack curiosity will fail to seek input or facilitate open dialogue, impede the free flow of information, and hinder effective collaboration. The reluctance to encourage cooperation and exchanging ideas limits the team’s ability to innovate and adapt to challenges.

Decision-making becomes compromised with the absence of curiosity. Leaders make uninformed choices without seeking relevant information or considering potential alternatives. This jeopardizes the organization’s success and reflects a leadership style that lacks the foresight necessary for sustainable growth.

Leaders who lack empathy and curiosity struggle to connect with their teams on a human level, creating an environment that hinders innovation and lacks engagement. Recognizing the critical importance of empathy and curiosity is paramount. Embracing empathy and curiosity is an imperative for leaders committed to creating a positive and thriving work environment.

Leaders with Empathy

Leaders who embody empathy create a sense of trust within their teams by ensuring that team members feel understood and supported. This foundation of trust strengthens the leader-team relationship and promotes mutual trust among team members.

Through active listening and consideration of different perspectives, empathetic leaders approach conflicts with a genuine desire to understand the emotions and concerns of all involved. This approach facilitates smoother conflict resolution and contributes to overall harmony within the team.

Empathetic leaders contribute to a positive environment by acknowledging individual efforts and achievements. This recognition goes beyond tasks and results and into the human aspect of each team member, promoting a sense of value and appreciation.

Leaders with empathy establish trust and positive work environments and excel in conflict resolution and motivation. The ripple effect of empathetic leadership extends beyond the individual, creating a cohesive and supportive team dynamic where trust, understanding, and acknowledgment flourish. As leaders prioritize empathy, they enhance their effectiveness and contribute to the overall success and well-being of the team and the organization.

Leaders with Curiosity

Curious leaders actively seek knowledge, stay informed about industry trends, and cultivate a culture of ongoing learning within their teams. They are not content with the status quo; instead, they always look for better ways of doing things. This perpetual quest for improvement is a driving force behind innovation and creative problem-solving. By encouraging a mindset that embraces change and exploration, these leaders inspire their teams to think differently and discover new or improved approaches.

Curious leaders are more inclined to embrace change and adapt to evolving circumstances. Challenges are viewed not as obstacles but as opportunities to learn and grow, producing resiance and agility. Curious leaders stay ahead of the curve, drive innovation, inspire creative problem-solving, and cultivate team adaptability..

The Combined Impact

The interplay of empathy and curiosity forms the bedrock of effective leadership, guiding leaders through tough decisions and creating a resilient and engaged organizational culture.

An empathetic leader, attuned to the human impact of decisions, brings a compassionate perspective to tough choices. Simultaneously, a curious leader explores various options and potential outcomes, paving the way for well-informed and innovative decision-making.

The synergy of empathy and curiosity extends to collaboration. Empathy boosts understanding and unity within the team, while curiosity encourages the exploration of diverse ideas and perspectives. This combination results in effective collaboration, where the strengths of each team member are valued, and diverse viewpoints contribute to comprehensive decision-making.

Resilience in the face of setbacks is a hallmark of leaders possessing empathy and curiosity. Empathy allows them to connect with their teams during challenging times, providing much-needed support. Meanwhile, curiosity enables them to learn from setbacks, adapt strategies, and navigate future challenges with a proactive mindset.

Teams led by empathetic and curious leaders are functional and engaged. When individuals feel valued and challenged, inspired by leaders who prioritize empathy and curiosity, they contribute their best efforts to the team’s success.

Empathy and curiosity in leadership promotes positive relationships, drives innovation, and establishes an environment where individuals and teams can thrive.

Be choosy with your leaders. Those who lack empathy and curiosity are not worthy of your following.



Karl Bimshas

Boston-bred and California-chilled Leadership Adviser | Writer | Podcast Host who helps busy professionals who want to manage better and lead well.