In their book The Social Psychology of Perceiving Others, Marianne Schmidt Mast and Ioana Latu note that the ability of a leader to empathise with a team member has a positive correlation with leadership effectiveness.
“The positive effects of interpersonally accurate leaders cascades down to the subordinates,” said the authors.
As a leader, you are expected to delegate tasks to the right people. Being acutely attuned to your team members' needs and stress levels means that you are able to delegate more effectively.
“If a leader accurately assesses that one of his/her subordinates has been particularly irritated and stressed over the past weeks, the leader will most likely not add responsibility for another important task to this particular subordinate,” noted Mast and Latu.
The entire team would benefit more if non-crucial tasks are given to this individual while other less stressed members take up the bulk of the work in that scenario, they said.
But will this lead to more satisfied subordinates? Mast and Latu said that preliminary studies have shown that some satisfaction is reported but more studies need to be conducted.
The ability to read nonverbal cues may be variable but it is also trainable. In a separate paper published in the same book, authors Daniella Blanch-Hartigan, Susan A. Andrzejewski, and Krista M. Hill said that there are various ways that leaders can improve this skill.
Strangely, some success has been derived from formative and creative experiences such as taking music and dancing lessons or even by regularly interacting with toddlers.
“The potential capacity of such formative experiences to enhance accurate person perception suggests that training may improve the accuracy of inferring the internal states and traits of others,” they said.
How well are you able to assess your team members' emotional state and traits using nonverbal cues? Researchers suggest that your ability to do so makes you a more effective and well-respected leader.