Sensitivity – The under-rated leadership skill that may even be a superpower!

Yes, that’s right. I said sensitivity is an under-rated skill, a superpower even.

The word ‘sensitive’, especially when used in a workplace context, is often met with negativity. Sensitivity can be seen as a weakness or flaw, especially by those working in challenging environments where there’s a perception that strong, robust and decisive leadership is called for. I’d go as far as to say sensitivity is often seen as something that should be hidden or overcome in order to be a successful leader.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I’d like to share how developing your sensitivity will help you become a stronger and more successful leader:

1.      Building Relationships

Sensitivity allows managers and leaders to become better at building relationships. With developed sensitivity, they will get to know their teams better and understand team and individual needs, including how to get the best performance from everyone.

Being sensitive means managers and leaders can encourage others to open up and express themselves. To delegate work effectively, leaders need to be able to co-operate and collaborate with others so that work is delegated to the right people, with the right skills and attitude to get the job done well. To avoid people feeling ‘put upon’ managers also need to agree who is responsible for what, and do this in a fair, transparent way.

2.      Authenticity

Being willing to feel a little exposed and show vulnerability demonstrates that managers and leaders are genuine and trustworthy. Authenticity helps build a culture where people feel able to let their guard down and be their true selves. And by demonstrating that vulnerability is a strength, leaders will breed a culture of compassion and authenticity across their teams.

Authentic leaders are essential in today’s businesses as people want to a be part of organisations where it is OK not to maintain an “appearance” for 8 hours a day. Leaders who role model authentic behaviours encourage others to do the same and this encourages a culture of greater sensitivity to everyone’s needs and contribution.

3.      Balance

Being tough and strong is valuable but this is only one aspect of leadership. Great leaders manage in a well-rounded and considered way. Sensitivity provides a much needed balance to complement stronger, tougher leadership skills and traits.

4.     Emotional Intelligence

Sensitivity allows managers and leaders to tune into their own and other people’s emotions. With developed emotional intelligence leaders are better able to sense when others are feeling upset, angry, fearful, threatened, vulnerable and so on. They notice what’s happening to their team and are able to respond appropriately.

Awareness of other peoples struggles and experiences also helps to build trust and authentic relationships.

5.      Self-Awareness

Sensitivity requires self-awareness and it also develops self-awareness. Being sensitive helps leaders tune into their own emotions which develops their ability to regulate themselves, know and understand their own needs and make appropriate changes.

6.      Perception

Being more sensitive is also about the ability to be perceptive. With developed perception managers and leaders are able to better notice and understand what is going on around them. We don’t always communicate messages as we intended, and sometimes different people hear different things from the same message. We all absorb and process information differently. A sensitive leader will bear this in mind when leading and managing others rather than assuming that their message has been clearly received, in precisely the way they intended.


Building Relationships; Authenticity; Balance; Emotional Intelligence; Self-Awareness and Perception – Six reasons why I say sensitivity is an under-rated skill and a leadership super-power. Perhaps you would add some others?


Sensitivity is key to having Savvy Conversations and to creating positive workplace cultures. It is about making sure you are responsive to everyone’s feelings and moods, as well as having the right conversation, in the right way, at the right time.


Want to know more?

Sarah Harvey is Founding Director of Savvy Conversations Ltd and author of the highly acclaimed book “Savvy Conversations: A practical framework for effective workplace relationships.”


Linked In:
Twitter: @SarahSavvySarah
Instagram: savvysarah


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