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Empathy

Hello current and future Leaders, In my previous nugget on judging you will have seen the remark “EMPATHY IS IMPORTANT!” Empathy is a construct which is fundamental to leadership. It is the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. Beware: As you move up the career ladder your capacity for empathy could decrease. Dacher Keltner, an author and social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, has conducted empirical studies showing this inverse relationship. People who have power suffer deficits in empathy, the ability to read emotions, and the ability to adapt their behaviour to others. One simple explanation as to why this might happen is the following: As you are achieving certain career goals you may feel less the need for approval and support of others. You may be under constant pressure, high workload, tight deadlines, high expectations from those who promoted you. Hence, your focus shifts to challenges that you perceive as being more important, and whilst this is human, it is also dangerous. Especially in today’s workplace leaders need to be more people-focused and less task-focused – task-oriented skills like forecasting, controlling, delivering results are important, however, understanding, caring for and developing others are at least as important. When people feel their boss knows them, they feel cared for and heard. Their trust increases; their creativity increases. Most importantly, they feel safe. After all, as a leader you lead others to better performance and ultimately to success. There is good news: As a human, you have empathy. You may need to choose to turn it back on again, and here is how you can start: · Practice observing what is going on around you with complete focus. Focusing completely will enable you to detect your emotional response to what you observe. · Turn up your level of curiousity when you interact with others. · Listen attentively – and while listening watch for emotions others exhibit through posture, tone of voice and facial expressions. This will help you pick up what they are feeling. There are many other exercises you can try but focusing on these three things and practicing daily will be a good start. Daily practice will increase that empathy muscle in you.




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