To be sure there’s a host of other admirable traits that make up extraordinary leaders – confidence, resilience, determination, integrity, fortitude, honesty, courage, vision and care for others, etc. etc. All these and more have been manifested in the personas of Winston Churchill, Bill Gates, Peter Drucker, Steven Spielberg, Martin Luther King, Margaret Thatcher, Lee Iacocca and many others who have earned similar levels of appreciation and respect. Perhaps
the most important of their traits though – their common denominator … is empathy.
What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to vicariously experience the feelings and thoughts of another person. It’s about being able to put yourself in another individual’s shoes and sort of go through what he or she is going through. As opposed to sympathy, which is almost always associated with profound grief, empathy may happen even in happy occasions.
Here’s what Simon Sinek, the noted author of “LEADERS EAT LAST: WHY SOME TEAMS PULL TOGETHER AND OTHER DON’T” says about empathy. While most people consider rank, power, and privilege to be the cornerstones of leadership, Marines believe that true leadership is the willingness to place others’ needs above your own. Simon goes on to say that wanna-be leaders have got to be able to build a mindset that puts people first. He/she has got to see people as human beings rather than a means to the completion of a transaction or a project. In the context of customer interactions, practicing empathy is about working on a relationship based on serving rather than selling.
With your peers and co-workers, clients, suppliers, and associates in the industry, you may demonstrate empathy by asking “Are things okay with you?” When you place yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll get to understand their needs better, which is the fundamental element for successful connectivity.
What Oprah Winfrey says. For decades Oprah has been known to have built great rapport with her TV guests and audience. She’s been able to continually foster and maintain deeper connectivity with them by asking meaningful and probing questions that bring out implications and feelings. She says that leaders who practice empathy can have a more significant impact and influence. They use this empathy, this ability to relate to and connect with people – to
inspire and empower their lives.
And so … running a business or managing an organization? Take away what you can from these useful insights and be a true leader. Practice empathy.