Monday, June 3, 2013

Empathetic Leadership: Sign of Being a Mature Leader

Are you facing the prospect of making a tough decision today or in the near future? Perhaps, you are having to deliver bad news to a staff member, or a parent, or student? There are certainly what we perceive to be easier ways to deliver that news. We could write a letter, send an email, or maybe call, but each of these seems to be perhaps a bit to heartless and cowardly in some ways.  Inside, we think, "I would not want to hear this news in that manner." If we choose the wrong means of delivering that news, the price we often pay is diminished trust and feelings of goodwill, which are no doubt important to our leadership and our organizations. 

Making tough decisions the wrong way can breed harsh feelings and a total lack of good will in an organization. What is needed in these kinds of situations is leadership with a heavy dose of empathy. When we deliver bad news to people, whether it’s that one of our employees failed to get a promotion or that their job is being cut, the news is going to be quite painful.  We can simply deliver the news in our “Tough SOB” persona, or we can do so with empathy. Even in the toughest of circumstances, it is possible to create trust and goodwill, if we exercise “leadership with empathy.”

As you make tough decisions, you might use “Just Like Me” thoughts suggested by Chade-Meng Tan in his book Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace). As you face the prospect of delivering bad news, you might reflect on the following from Chade-Meng Tan's book:

Just Like Me
This person has a body and a mind, just
like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and
thoughts, just like me.
This person has, at some point in his or
her life, been sad, disappointed, angry,
hurt, or confused, just like me.
This person has, in his or her life,
experienced physical and emotional
pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and 
loved, and to have fulfilling
relationships, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like

By reflecting on the reality that the person you are talking to is "Just Like Me" it becomes easier to be empathetic and understanding. Exercising empathy in the face to tough decision-making is definitely a sign of mature leadership. We can be tough, and not be an SOB.

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