I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing established business author Dan Pink. One of the questions I asked him was how important Empathy is to Leadership….to which he replied:
It’s hugely important. It’s very hard to lead without being able to see the world through the eyes of those your leading. That’s especially true for creative teams. And it’s doubly true for the growing ranks of people who are leaders but who don’t have much formal authority — and therefore must rely on influence rather than command. There’s also some recent research, led by Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, that shows that as people accumulate power, they’re less likely to see the world from another’s perspective, which can often hamper their abilities to get others to go along with them. Leadership turns out to be a very delicate balance between action-orientation and perspective-taking. Too much of one rarely works.
What a great point Mr. Galinsky brings into light: The more leaders establish authority, the further they distance themselves from their team(s). I see it every day, the system of “managing” trumps common sense. Most leaders are in their positions because they possess the ability to coach their teams to results. This is usually a result of probing questions, “….have you considered…?”. Too often those in a position of power rely on stock management questions to position their players for success. This is a great way to ensure all the bases are covered. It is also a great way to marginalize leadership directly into management.
In short, If you cannot see the field from your players point of view you are a replaceable commodity.
When you lose the aforementioned ability, you lose touch with the ‘real life’ metrics of success. You also insult your best performers when you continually rely on stock questions to measure their progress. You need to give your people more credit and get out of the ivory tower. Yes, I considered the customer’s buying motives. Yes, I followed the six sigma process for strategic project completion. But, we are dealing with a variety of people, in a variety of industries, from a variety of motivational perspectives. So, take your head out of the management manual and show some Empathy.
The best Leaders need not rely on strategic questioning, activity reports or training disciplines. All they need is a little common sense.
In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek trumps all selling methods by requesting we get to the core of the issue. What is your genuine business purpose and how can I match up with that? It’s really that simple. Why do you exist as a business? Why are you different than your competitors? Why am I qualified to help you? When you ‘start with why’ you eliminate titles and get to the core of one’s existence. When you live by this premise you are empathetic to your employees, customers and constituents.
Dan Pink, Simon Sinek, Adam Galinsky and every great leader share a commonality:
They practice empathy as a way to find common sense in every business interaction. This is a consistently defensible trait that any Leader can possess. It is as easy as walking in the shoes of another…..if only for the sake of positioning them to succeed!