I saw a LinkedIn group discussion in which the question was posed:
Is Empathy Part of Leadership?
I was surprised that the question was posed. I was more surprised by the responses. Folks in Management positions posed rhetoric masked in “never let them see you sweat” bravado.
In his book, “Who’s Got Your Back”, Keith Ferrazzi proposes vulnerability as a key element in developing accountable relationships. By the common professional masquerade, Empathy and Vulnerability are signs of weakness and therefore have no place in a Leader’s toolbox. In Dale Carnegie Training, we urge principles of leadership to include:
Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly
Talk about your own mistakes before criticising…
The fundamental flaw in leaders is their inability to expose their humanity. The perception that if we humanize ourselves to our “under-studies”, we expose weakness. If you think you can mask your inability by pretending you know everything you are insulting the intelligence of the people you get paid to lead. People know when you are out of your league and if you pretend your weaknesses don’t exist you break trust. Nothing is more damaging to a leader’s reputation than losing the trust of his/her team. Once you have crossed the line of covering up your inability, it is further exposed. It is far better that you bring your areas of inefficiency to the forefront and allow others to take on tasks you might be less suited to perform.
Empathy is a key ingredient to Leadership! People are tired of directives that mean nothing to them masked in professionally rehearsed prose. It is always refreshing to hear a leader admit there is room for collaboration from the trenches. It is great to know that your boss cares for you as a person and will help you get your job done. No one wants to abide by rules that mean nothing to them. If you are covering up cost cutting with creative language you are exposing your dishonesty. Once you have crossed that line…..respect is gone!
It is confusing to me that our most confident adults act as insecure as children on occasion. That we must have a title to cling to, that we must have our voice heard, that our contribution to the organization always needs our name tied to it.
It’s time to grown up!
For far to long we have been pretending. It’s time to get real!