The Power Of Empathy in Leadership
Empathy in leadership can mean the difference between short term wins and sustainable success, trust and respect.
“Climbing your way” up the corporate ladder – or any ladder in life does not constitute the stepping on, or demise of those around you.
There is a gracious way to lead at home and at work, yet still be firm and not a push over.
The main message for today: It pays to be kind.
Empathy is part of 360 leadership. So why is it so hard to find?
Most leadership teams I work with at the moment are struggling to find the balance of leading from within, delivering tough message. The challenge of having to make difficult decisions that effects those who work for them, with them or even how to communicate at home.
As responsibility increases their personal confidence in making “human” or emotionally supported decisions wavers, at the risk of being disliked, wrong or quite frankly ‘excluded’ from the previous connections they had before their promotion weighed heavily.
This is not a new phenomena – and as a part of my C-Suite fast track program, one of the vital soft skills we work on is the power of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, considering different opinions and constraints. Empathy.
I loved a recent article in the Harvard Biz Review that spoke about the importance of empathy in leadership;
…According to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive – he sent a memo to his employees stating, “Our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero.”
A mission and vision is balanced well when values are taken into account with a quick snapshot.
- Do you know who you are talking to and really what motivates them or worries them day in and day out?
- Do you care or just want to get your point across and focus on the bottom line KPI’s in a robotic sense.
- Is the task overriding your bigger picture understanding of stakeholders and those who you need to get on board.
This intuitive snapshot – or empathy is inherently within. It can also be taught. Just like any other level of experience, you can work on expanding your mental muscle to learn how to work, lead and live with vitality and empathy in this world.
The reality is we cannot truly lead without some form of compassion and emotional intelligence.
The Balancing Act
Leading with empathy and compassion – balanced with facts, stats and strategy/experience creates a strong ripple effect as by default you end up leading by example.
Empathy does not mean you need to slow down your decision making or acquiesce to others every whim. However it does allow you to make considered informed decisions, understand repercussions of actions and provide a relevant and resonating argument to those you need to follow or join you on the journey.
To me it is what sets the GREAT leaders apart from those that have one road – “my way or the highway”. So if you haven’t looked up for a while and feel disconnected from those who you lead, like and trust then here’s my quick tips.
7 Steps To Build Your Mental Empathy Muscle
You can demonstrate calm, clarity and conviction without rail roading those around you:
- Listen and pause before you butt in and respond
- Be clear with your time – set expectations
- Do not overload your agenda
- Have face to face conversations
- Pay it Forward – Do one RAK (random act of kindness a day) for the next 7 days
- Find out what your team or those important value the most
- Acknowledge and respond – feedback, reward and recognise.
Funnily enough empathy is sometimes seen as being weak. Quite the contrary.
If you truly do the work and are committed to being your personal best in your business, life and for your future then empathy is a vital tool for truly leading others.
If you’re stressed out and not being centred or delivering clear decisions at home or at work – chances are you’re not going to get the team work, results, harmony and sustainable results you so desire.
Kindness is one of the qualities I value the most – it does NOT mean you earn less money – but you will probably earn more enduring respect.
We are all capable of building on our skills and our emotional intelligence. The drive has to be that you can understand the power of being kind can lead to sustainable and long term success.
I hope this has given you some food for thought and I’d love to hear about leaders who you believe, work with or for who you feel demonstrate the power of compassion and drive for uncompromising success.
Yours in Ultimate Vitality
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