Like this CEO, there are many (often successful) people in organisations who are direly lacking in empathy. Some executives are quite narcissistic. Self-centered as they are, they may find it difficult to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Other executives may have sociopathic traits. They project an air of sincerity, but in reality they feel nothing, and are fine with that. Some people even turn empathy into a destructive force, using their keen sense of a person’s emotional state to manipulate or destabilize him or her. Many more people, like the CEO, are wary of the chaos that might ensue if “personal feelings” were acknowledged. But behaving in these ways in our increasingly network-oriented society comes with a steep price.
Empathic executives are better at managing relationships. They establish safe environments in which people can express hopes and fears. Because it is “contagious,” empathy contributes to better negotiation, collaboration, and conflict resolution.
Empathy plays an important role in effective team formation. When the expression of empathy is part of a company’s culture, its stress level will be lower. All of these advantages lead to a more committed workforce with a greater motivation to perform beyond expectations.
Manfred Kets de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development & Organisational Change
In an essay published in the July 2016 issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Barbara Kellerman, James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, argues that the “leadership industry’s” focus on single individuals has hampered its ability to improve the human condition. The title of Kellerman’s essay, “Leadership—It’s a System, Not a Person!,” sums up both her main thrust and her frustration with the industry’s constant elevation of single leaders at the expense of other important facets of leadership.
In a recent article, “10 Principles of Organizational Culture,” strategy+business highlighted how crucial it is to deploy authentic informal leaders (AILs). As the acronym suggests, AILs are not people in your organization who have been endowed with formal authority by title or by memo. Rather, they possess and exhibit certain leadership strengths such as the ability to do something important well and showing others how to do it (exemplars), or they demonstrate the skill of connecting people across the organization (networkers). Some AILs influence behavior by being the first to understand the value of a new trend (early adopters) or by instinctively associating peers’ positive feelings with day-to-day activities (pride builders). These strengths — which my colleagues at the Katzenbach Center and I refer to as “spikes” — can make AILs powerful allies in any transformation effort.
These days there’s a lot of talk – and a lot of executive education – revolving around “design thinking”. Companies like Apple, Netflix, Facebook, and others are disrupting industries and business models left and right. With these developments comes the realization that traditional approaches to problem-solving are no longer enough. So, across industries around the world, attention is shifting to design thinking as an approach for unleashing creativity and innovation in organizations.
Reflecting on our beliefs and motives, decisions and reactions, helps us grow. Here are a few titles from the arenas of Human and Social Behavior that offer insight into our psyches. [Originally published on Tech Insider.]
Free will often seems like nothing more than a cruel illusion. We don't get to choose the times, places, and circumstances of our birth, nor do we have much control over the state of our states, regions, or nations.
As stated by Talmud, “We do not see things as they are; but as we are.” This doctrine from the eighth century speaks to our perceptions and questions our ability to understand people and situations accurately.
In a competitive and fluid corporate environment, executives make decisions based on their experiences and ability to navigate complex change situations. But many leaders fail to look through the lens of the opposing viewpoints and limit their decision quality by projecting only their own thoughts, insights and experiences into a situation without acknowledging alternative angles or beliefs. Strategic self-reflection can enable leaders to create a bridge between information and wisdom.
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