In a recent article at BizJournals.com, Stacy Epstein suggests that one leadership trait trumps all others. Now, everyone reading this may have their pick for top leadership trait, but Epstein chose empathy.

And, it’s tough to make an argument for why she’s wrong. Empathy is indeed a powerful leadership principle. People will work harder with you, and for you, when they believe you are really listening to them. Even if you don’t agree, they will appreciate knowing that you at least understand where they are coming from.

From a public relations perspective, empathy can simply be the understanding that ALL of your content should be geared toward the reader. What will they want to know, and how will your message be understood?

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, it’s my message I’m trying to communicate here. I have something to say that I want to be heard.”

Absolutely, but that does not change the fact that people will hear what they want to hear, and make out of your message – no matter how carefully worded – whatever they want to make out of it.

The secret, then, is to craft your message so that your readers grasp what you are trying to give to them. That they take your ideas and internalize them as if they were their own. That they hear your words speaking directly to their wants and needs and perspectives. They may not always agree with what you are doing or saying, but they will appreciate the consideration.

And here, I’m talking about real consideration, not patently empty buzzwords. You don’t have to be specific – in fact, it’s better if you’re somewhat vague – but you do have to convey a message about YOU that THEY find appealing.

Empathy is the key to unlocking that conundrum. You could call it market research or understanding your base, but, in the end, it all comes down to taking the time to listen BEFORE you speak.

What about your content and communication? Could your approach use some empathy? Without it, you will definitely leave money on the table and get less done. But, enable empathy in your approach to business communication – at every level – and you will put yourself in a much better place for long-term success.