Advice for the goal-oriented leader: develop empathy

By William Seidman Someone I respect a lot, David Rock, has written about the importance of social skills in leadership. Too often, a leader is either goal-focused or social-focused. When one area of the brain is engaged, the other area takes a break. Rock writes that “[a] goal-oriented leader that lacks social skills will end up directing a fundamentally weaker organization. They will not be able to connect with their employees in order to unify them around a vision or strategy.” So what can the goal-oriented leader do to improve his or her skills? An article on Mind Tools by Bruna Martinuzzi suggests that the key lies in developing empathy. “Indeed, empathy is valued currency,” Martinuzzi writes. “It allows us to create bonds of trust, it gives us insights into what others may be feeling or thinking; it helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations, it sharpens our ‘people acumen’ and it informs our decisions.” Martinuzzi points out that several studies have linked empathy to business results, and several authors have written about the power of empathy in leadership development. Daniel Pink predicted that empathy will be vital to a leader’s success in his book, “A Whole New Mind.” In his article, “What Makes a Leader?” Dr. Daniel Goleman wrote that “Leaders with empathy do more than sympathize with people around them: they use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle, but important ways.” So how can leaders become more empathetic? Martinuzzi offers many of the same guidelines that we use in our Wisdom Discovery session where we identify what makes star performers great: Truly listen to people, don’t interrupt, encourage people to speak, be fully present, and give genuine recognition and praise. Try using these skills in your daily routines and see how those you work with react. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.]]>

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