compassion are not mutually exclusive. Maria has authored multiple books, including The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success. She has spoken to audiences ranging from The New York Times to BlogHer and has written for numerous media outlets, including Entrepreneur.com.
Guest post from Maria Ross:
Let me ask you a question: What does a successful leader look like? Effective leaders are masters of business strategy. They are visionaries who know how to clearly communicate their vision to others. To climb the corporate ladder, you’ve got to make fast, difficult decisions at critical times. Successful leaders have persistence, tenacity, confidence, enthusiasm.
But what about compassion, kindness, and empathy?
Imagine: a leader who knows how to gain efficiencies, decrease costs, increase employee retention, and inspire customer loyalty based on taking another’s point of view? This is the power of empathy at work.
The POWER of Empathy?
Now, the types of leadership qualities that show up on list after list are there for good reason. Being strategic, being a visionary, being decisive, being persistent, tenacious, confident, and enthusiastic all propel individual success as well as an organization’s success.
It’s true. The business benefits of compassion, kindness, and empathy are less obvious, especially in an uber-competitive world. However, when you look closely, you discover that it becomes difficult to see empathy as anything other than essential for competent leadership. After all, I can think of no better foundation for a business model than recognizing the pain and suffering of others as a problem in need of a solution.
Empathetic leaders at all levels, including managers, HR professionals, consultants, and c-level executives, are more competent leaders because they understand the power of meeting people where they are:
● Empathetic entrepreneurs use their transformative experiences to empower others and fuel their businesses.
● Empathetic managers put their teams at ease and support their employees as they achieve mutually beneficial goals.
● Empathetic executives adapt to the inevitable shifts in business with calm confidence. They watch new ideas take root and recognize the value of developing products to meet customer needs.
If you see the power of empathy at work and are ready to unlock this power in your own leadership, I’ve got some good news: empathy is a skill you can exercise like a muscle. Just as you can learn to become more strategic, more of a visionary, and more decisive, you can learn to be more compassionate.
Here are seven simple ways to train yourself to lead more empathetically:
1. Practice Presence: When you learn to be more present with yourself, you’ll be free to be more present with others. Take five minutes—yes, just five minutes—out of your day to meditate or sit in silence. Avoid distractions. Don’t multitask.
2. Listen More, Stay Humble: Empathetic leaders listen with restraint to people’s experiences, stories, and perspectives. When you really listen, you pause, look for common ground, and offer constructive feedback that connects with the other person.
3. Be Curious: Authentically empathetic people are always learning from others and the world around them. Because they’re constantly curious, they are open to new synergies and able to make surprising connections while planting the seeds of success.
4. Explore with Your Imagination: Getting inside the minds of employees and customers means getting inside the minds of human beings. You can do this outside of work too. Immerse yourself in films, documentaries, biographies, theater, art, or music.
5. Cultivate Confidence: It might seem counterintuitive for a leader to lack confidence. But many leaders forget to track their goals and celebrate their wins because they’re focused on the success of the company as a whole. Bolster your confidence so you can pass it on.
6. Get in the Trenches: If you deem a job “beneath” you or a “waste of your time,” consider the message you’re sending to those doing this job on a daily basis. Instead, try standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your salespeople or jump on a customer service call.
7. Find Common Ground: As an empathetic leader, you want to build a community, not simply lift up individuals. Look for intersecting experiences, abilities, and needs. At these crossroads, you’ll find opportunities to come together.
What do you think? Will you join me in rewriting the script about what gives businesses a competitive advantage? Let’s show the world what compassionately competitive, kindly ambitious, and empathetic, yet decisive leaders look like!
Maria Ross, the founder of brand consultancy Red Slice, believes cash flow, creativity and