The other day, Leadership First, a publishing company focused on providing leadership resources, posted a quote by Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” Leadership First added that “To become a successful leader, you should seek to become a person of value. But you must focus on adding value first to the people you are entrusted to serve, and when you do, you will automatically become a person of success.”
How do you become a leader of value?
One of the most important ways is by using empathy, which is the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to understand what they think and feel. This may seem like an easy answer, but leading with empathy is not something most of us are good at.
You might be wondering what value empathy plays in leadership. Forbes magazine recently published a summary of the current research being done on the impact of empathy in the workplace. Here is what they found:
● Empathy decreases workplace negativity and toxicity; it improves mental health and performance.
● People who work under empathic leadership have increased levels of innovation, engagement with their work, tend to stay at their jobs longer, and have a better work-life balance.
The benefits are clear, but how do we become leaders of value? Here are some suggestions:
Be curious. Ask yourself: What would I be feeling and thinking in this person’s shoes? If you can’t put your finger on it, ask the person! So often we assume we know how someone is feeling and what they are thinking, but we don’t know for sure until we ask them. If you see someone struggling, ask them about what they are going through, be curious about their experience. Ask questions that encourage the person to share.
Listen. Don’t jump in and offer solutions right away. Ask people what they need and if there is anything that you can do to help. Often, people will appreciate the opportunity to share what they are going through and then go on to find their own solutions. Remember that as a leader, you don’t have to provide all the solutions. Your role is to empower others to seek their own answers.
Practice. Empathic leaders are made, not born. We all need to learn empathy and practice it. In his book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, Alan Alda gives practical tips on how to practice empathy: when you are around people at the grocery store or standing in line, notice the people around you, pick one person, read their body language and think about what they are feeling and thinking. Doing this will increase your empathy.
What other tips would you add? Do you know someone who leads with empathy? What do they do well, and what have you learned from them?
We would love to hear about your experience.