May 22, 2011
Welcome to week 3 of 4 for the leadership minute’s discussion on the 4 key intangibles of great leadership.
Over the first two weeks we covered Humility and Honesty. Both critical to understanding and more importantly succeeding in leadership.
Profoundly (perhaps conveniently) in the statement above I use the word “Understanding,” a word that serves as the core component of the third intangible, EMPATHY.
By definition, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To me, this is so important to leadership that failure is eminent without it.
Being understood is not only a need for people in their professional life, it is one of the basic needs for health and wellness. Numerous studies have been published, even in the New England Journal of Medicine, that show the act of empathy by health care practitioners actually improves patient outcomes. Meaning patients show a greater rate of improvement and recovery when they feel their Doctor takes a genuine interest in their needs. (Bedside manner sounds a bit more important now?)
Let’s translate this back to business and leadership. How does empathy effect the relationships we deal with in our daily grind…
As an employee – The happiest and most successful employees work for companies where beyond their direct compensation they feel they are understood, their work respected, and they have more than a job. All of which require empathy.
As a manager – When you are trying to motivate performance and drive tasks, influence is earned through your character and competence. Your team responds to you because you have the know how, but more importantly they listen because they believe you care. A belief that is rooted in empathy.
As an executive – Driving the vision, mission, and long term execution for a company takes courage, intelligence, and perhaps most importantly organizational support. While your all of those aforementioned traits drive results, few executives will claim they can do it alone. That required support will stabilize and grow when your team feels appreciated and understood by an empathetic leader.
As a customer – Think about your own buying experiences. Especially purchases that are not necessities. When you have a choice, you almost always choose to buy from people you like. What is it that you like about them? I would submit that often times it is you like that they appear to care about your needs. That understanding – empathy at its finest.
All boiling down to…
As a human being – Whether employee, manager, executive, or customer, the bottom line is we as people want to be understood. Not only in our careers, but in our lives. Our careers being a section of our larger being, we take that section and apply it across everything we do.
Great leaders know that EMPATHY is a requirement of their success, and that is why it is the third of four intangibles great leaders must possess.