In 2017 I chose Empathy as my word for the year. I studied it and tried to apply it more in my interactions with people. What I discovered is how important empathy is for great leadership.
If we understand that leadership begins and ends with people, then we understand the need to develop relationships, make connections, partner with our people, and show empathy.
Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others.
Empathy helps us lead individually not collectively. Empathy gives us unique insight into people. Empathy encourages leaders to understand the root cause behind poor performance. Empathy allows leaders to build and develop relationships with those they lead.
Empathy as a state of mind breeds more listening, more understanding and, therefore, more leadership!
When leadership is executed with empathy it changes lives.
Bob Gay, who serves on the board of the Anasazi Foundation, the renowned wilderness behavioral healthcare program based in Arizona that helps young people “discover and nurture the seeds of greatness that lie within,” tells the story of a teenage girl enrolled in the program who was being transported to the starting point in the Arizona desert.
When they arrived at their destination and stopped the car, the first thing the girl did is jump out and start running. She looked back over her shoulder, expecting the leaders to yell at her to come back. Instead, they shouted, “Stop, we want to come with you.”
Then they added, “If we’re going to run, we need to go the way you’re running.”
The girl had no shoes on. She ran until her feet were bloody. She finally stopped running, turned to the leaders who had gone with her step for step, and said, “ Thank you for being willing to experience my pain.”