Step forward the Empathetic Leader. This is fast becoming the next leadership innovation. Organisations are finally beginning to realise that leadership is both an art and a science. That empathy may be a soft skill but it has a hard edge.
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Sympathy v Empathy:
- Sympathy is passive and from your own perspective
- Empathy is proactive and from the other person's perspective
Therefore, it is better to be an empathetic rather than a sympathetic leader, if you want to be influential.
Step forward the empathetic leader
Maverick DRIVEN Leadership™ is a combination of what you DO as a Maverick Leader and WHO you are, and having empathy and deploying it is an essential quality to have.
If you have a company and your leaders dole out sympathy rather than empathy, you will see the negative impact on your bottom line. This is especially true for your Maverick and Millennial employees; who expect your time and for you to genuinely care about them.
There are a number ways to improve your empathetic skills:
- Pay attention! Before you begin deciding what you want to say, listen to the other person with minimal interruptions. Ask questions so you truly understand what is being said. This means you should also look for what isn't being said - sometimes the truth to the situation resides there.
- Be Emotionally Aware. Understanding body language and team dynamics are essential to this. In my book The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power of Successful Leaders I discuss the ability of Socialised Mavericks to be simultaneously aware of Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence and a 'Temperature check'. Not only are they aware, they are able to use it to put people at ease and influence for the greater good.
- In the moment of listening, avoid judging. If you judge someone as they are talking, you are ensuring that you will not be hearing the truth and your own bias will provide unnecessary conflict. It is hard to be analytic and objective when you are annoyed or intolerant of someone or their perspectives.
- Ensure that you are approachable and can be trusted as well as trustworthy.
- Be an effective coach and mentor
Being an Empathetic Leader does not mean that you avoid conflict and agree with everybody! There is an inherent danger in choosing to be empathetic. The desire to seek consensus in deference to making an unpopular decision. Leaders will have to, on occasion, make decision, that others would prefer not to be made.
Step up the Empathetic Leader, it's a foundational step to true Maverick DRIVEN Leadership™.