Last week I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting the weekly #LeadFromWithin tweetchat with Lolly Daskal. The subject of my chat was “The Role of Empathy in Leadership” and I have to say I was gratified by both the level of participation and depth of contributions/insights which arose during the discussion (click here to download a PDF copy of the chat transcript).
Although I’ve written previously about the importance of empathy in leadership, I want to use last week’s talk as an opportunity to delve into this issue more, sharing some of the points I provided during the talk, as well as some of the insights proffered by the various participants. Here are the ten questions I asked participants as we discussed the role empathy plays in leadership.
"Amit Dodani, a 15-year-old from Los Angeles, CA, talks about 'My Name My Story'--his youth-run leadership program to inspire the next generation of leaders."
"I encourage young people like myself to find their passion and run with it! Everyone's talents can be used for the greater good. For an athlete, it may be teaching disabled children how to play their sport. For a musician, it may be holding a charity concert to raise money for cancer. For a scientist, it may be working with corporations on finding new developments in medicine that can cure millions. For a writer, it may be writing inspirational poetry that moves people in healthy directions. For me, it is public speaking. I recently realized my words really can make a difference."
When most people think of leaders, they think of famous people like Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, or (when talking about toxic leaders), Adolf Hitler. But why not think about ourselves in term of a leader?
You are tired. You are frustrated. You are weary. Weary of feeling as though your dreams are impossible to reach. Weary of being told you don’t fit in, won’t make the cut or don’t have what it takes to play on the team. Weary of feeling as though...
People want to feel a sense of control over change - so it's not just something imposed on them by people who don'y understand their needs and priorities. When people understand why change is necessary and it's long-term benefits, they're more likely to buy in.
When I was younger, most of my waking life was consumed in conversations. In my work life, I learned that most learning occurs, and most decisions are made, in small group conversations, often ad hoc. I was persuaded that good conversation skills were the key to good relationships. I believed, in short, that conversation mattered.
Now that I’m no longer working, and rarely required to converse with anyone, I’ve come to believe that, as GB Shaw put it, “the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. In retrospect, I would guess that most of the conversations I was party to over the years were incompetently conducted and largely a waste of time. The conversants, for the most part, had already decided what they believed or what needed to be done, and were just looking for reassurance. Or they were talking to hear themselves think, and not listening to anyone else. There was almost never any real exchange of information, or ideas, or perspectives, despite the earnest attempts of the conversants to convey these things. Our languages are not very good at that, and the complicity of creatures that make up what we believe to be “us”, as individuals, rarely allows our minds — their minds really — to focus more than a small bit of our attention on anything not directly relevant to the needs of the moment. And our culture does its best to obfuscate and distort the meaning of words and the events of the day, so that most of what we manage to convey is probably lies anyway.