We all have worries. We all have fears. We all have doubts. We all have frustrations.
At one time or another, we all ask:
“Why is this happening to me?!”
“Why does this always fall on my lap?!”
One thing we all have in common, regardless of our backgrounds, is that we’re all human beings. Since we’re all human, we tend to slip up, make mistakes, and we certainly have thoughts, feelings, and emotions which can get the best of us, from time to time.
“Y Me Path” Through a Different Lens
The best leaders we’ve ever known are just as human as we are. They simply choose a different attitude and approach to life, which keeps them propped up with positive mental attitudes. This is what makes leaders different, setting them apart from the pack.
For example, leaders see these same seven letters – Y Me Path – through a different lens. Leaders see those same seven letters in a different order:
It’s amazing how quickly a leader’s own frustrations, worries, doubts, and fears dissipate, allowing them to zestfully lead us through our issues. They focus on us, not on themselves!
While leaders have the same emotions as everyone else, they simply know how to manage them. Moreover, they’re called to lead because of their genuine interest, care, and focus on serving other people’s needs instead of their own.
Research Proves Empathy’s Power
Internationally known psychologist and best-selling author, Daniel Goleman, has researched and written a great deal about the power of empathy in leadership. Goleman defines empathy simply as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
In their book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman and his coauthors explain, “By being attuned to how others feel in the moment, a leader can say and do what’s appropriate, whether that means calming fears, assuaging anger, or joining in good spirits. This attunement also lets a leader sense the shared values and priorities that can guide the group.”
In the same book, authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee unpack six distinct leadership styles, when to use them, and what skills are needed to pull them off. The results of an extensive study of over 4,000 leaders and how their direct reports feel about the overall climate at work proved just how much great leaders employ the ever-so-impactful skill of empathy. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee found that the first four styles – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic – result in an overall positive, enjoyable, and fulfilling climate which the authors call resonance; conversely the final two styles – Pacesetting and Commanding – create dissention, discord, and an overarching negative climate in most cases, which the authors call dissonance.
The reason I call out this research is because the single-most prevalent, impactful, and effective skill needed to execute each of the four resonant leadership styles, is empathy.
Bringing it all together
Consider why certain people in any group, team, or organization emerge as “the leader”. It’s because people are compelled to follow them. Think about the person you’re compelled to follow at work or in your community. What makes them worthy of following? Chances are, it’s because they’ve taken a genuine interest in you. Their interest in and focus on you means they care about you and your future.
- Before a leader can articulate an inspirational vision, which ignites action, they must first understand perspectives and read emotions of those they lead. Empathy gives leaders an understanding which allows their vision to be understood by every member of the team.
- Before a leader can effectively coach they must first listen closely to those they lead. Empathy gives way to effective listening, which leads to effective feedback, coaching, and especially emotional connections which ultimately drive unprecedented levels of positivity and productivity.
- Before a leader can become affiliative enough to create harmony, they must be able to sense feelings, needs, and perspectives of everyone in the group. Empathy compels the leader to lift spirits, keeping people happy with his or her genuine care; which transforms the group into a high-performing team.
- Before a leader can pull off the democratic approach, strategically sourcing perspectives, views, and counsel from talented people, he or she must first be attuned to the wide range of people around them. Empathy once again, the ability to understand others’ emotions and thoughts, helps a leader strategically leverage the talent around them, avoid miscues, and foster teamwork along the way.
Show me a person who takes an interest in others, seeks to understand their perspectives, and genuinely cares about the current well-being and future successes of those around them, and I’ll show you a happy, fulfilled resonant leader with a zest for life!
Leaders avoid the “Y Me Path” with E-M-P-A-T-H-Y.
“People won’t care how much know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt