Keystone of Leadership

Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.

Managers manage. Performers perform. Teachers teach. Leaders lead – and leaders perform, and leaders manage, and leaders solve problems, and leaders teach, and…etc.

What allows a leader to do so much, to be so much?? It could be empathy.

Empathy is like reading someone else’s story. It is being one with the events, the feelings, the characters and then working to feel the emotions of those characters. It is living life not just with others, but involved with specific and sincere concern by: observing, listening, and understanding.

After three years of research, Professor Ernest J Wilson III and a few colleagues at USC found that there are 5 attributes business leaders need in today’s economy:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Cultural competence (the capacity to think, act, and move across multiple borders)
  3. 360-degree thinking (holistic understanding, capable of recognizing patterns of problems and their solutions)
  4. Intellectual Curiosity
  5. Empathy

In an HBR article, Mr. Wilson goes on to say that:

 “… When we reported the results of our research to other leaders, many said empathy was the most important of the five attributes we had uncovered.”

Empathy is a strongly developed emotional intelligence that is very related to cultural competence. Empathy is the ability to see the world through others’ eyes – to understand their personal perspectives. Empathy is not a skill to be perfected, but rather an on-going deep interest in the other person, especially when it comes to understanding their unique choices and cultural preferences.

“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing. Instead of offering empathy, we often have a strong urge to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling. Empathy, however, calls upon us to empty our mind and listen to others with our whole being.”Marshall Rosenberg

While integrity is the keystone of sustainable business, empathy is the keystone of leadership and sustainable relationships.

Empathy is what drives effective leadership. It is not the only driver, but the final touch to great leadership, the keystone. Many people are great performers. Still, others might have vision

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. But without the ability to share that vision and help others follow, that vision and performance is often wasted. Empathy allows the leader to make their message resonate with the team. Empathy alone will not lead to success. Without adaptability, empathy will not help you adjust to new situations that are out of your control. Without being able to recognize patterns, problems, and solutions empathy will not help you think logically or see clearly. When empathy is combined with other skills, qualities and leadership traits – then success can be found. Plus, the more empathy we have the more happiness, peace, and joy we can bring to our lives, as well as the lives of others.

by Mareo McCracken