Friday, November 20, 2020

Lean Quote: Leadership is About Empathy

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.  — Oprah Winfrey

When you get into a discussion about leadership, empathy does not normally come high up on the elements for discussion. I think it should. 


I would agree with Oprah Winfrey if you cannot connect with people to inspire them, then you are going to fall short as a leader. If you cannot see into the minds and hearts of your people, then you will not lead them. 


Rhetoric will only take you so far, and for a short period of time. Long term leadership will only be sustained with true empathy. 


Empathy is a skill that you can develop and grow – but it takes effort for those not naturally inclined. Below are three simple ways of doing this. 


1. Listen to Others  

Listen to others very carefully. Don’t just listen for the sake of listening. Listen with an open heart and mind. Only in this way, you can understand the entire message the other party is trying to communicate. Pay attention to their tone of voice and body language. Really try to feel what the other person is saying to you. What is important to them? Step outside for a minute and try to understand their perspectives. This can be very helpful especially if you are discussing a divisive topic. You don’t need to agree on everything the other person says but it is important to see their points. 


2. Be Nice and Smile 

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Be nice to people and smile at them. Don’t forget that good manners and kindness always win in relationships. If you treat others nicely, you will soon notice that they will also treat you the same way. In this way, you can build a healthy relationship with your co-workers. For example, if you are going to give a birthday gift to a co-worker, think about whether the person receiving this gift would actually like it or not. Rather than picking out something you like, try to think about the feelings of the other party and shop accordingly. 


3. Turn the Tables 

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes before criticizing them. First, try to understand their actions by turning the tables and then decide. The best example for this is the interview process. When you are interviewing someone, think about the interviewee. Put yourself in his/her shoes and try to remember the last time you went for an interview. Do you remember how excited and nervous you were? Then, it is normal for the person you are interviewing with to have the same feelings. Therefore, in order to calm him/her down, you can start with simple and expected questions like “Tell me about yourself” and then, move onto more difficult and technical ones. 


So, yes, empathy is a key element of leadership, and without practicing it, you will be lesser for it. 


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