Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Genuine Empathy and the Power to Lead

Brian Browne Walker’s commentary on the I Ching offers some excellent advice about leadership: “Gentleness and understanding create in others an unconscious willingness to be led.” When you can genuinely understand where your employees are coming from, you are able to know exactly what to do or say to get the best results from them. This requires developing your own capacity for empathy. Here are some suggestions for developing your empathy:

  • Listen. You may not always understand where an employee is coming from. Even the most creative and open-minded people can fail to grasp another individual’s unique circumstances. Consequently, the only way you can understand where others are coming from is by listening to them. Listening in this sense is not merely listening to the words a person says but listening for the underlying needs that the person may be expressing even while failing to articulate.
  •  Validate. Particularly in times where people seem far apart in their beliefs, it’s really easy to look at a person with whom you disagree and see an enemy. However, we all have the capacity to feel the same types of emotions, whether these are fear, anger, or joy. We also all have the same basic needs. When you try to recognize that beneath any disagreement are two people who need love and respect, it’s not so easy to see someone you disagree with as the enemy.
  • Consider your own attitude. When you find yourself in a disagreement with someone else, ask yourself what you want from the interaction. Do you want to see the other person punished? Is this about winning or being right? Wanting to see another person punished presumes that you know best -- a dangerously arrogant attitude, especially from a leader who should be looking to serve employees.
  • Suspend your own viewpoint. When you are trying to understand another person’s feelings, your own point of view isn’t a necessary perspective. In fact, it gets in the way of seeing another’s point of view. Remember that suspending your views is not the same as dropping them or changing them. Your viewpoint will still be there if you still need it.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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