There must be something with me thinking about empathy and snow at this time of year, even though the last time I wrote about it was in 2010. Strangely enough, many of the circumstances are the same; too much snow in some places, icy cold in others, or barely snow and ice in many places but they still closed schools, roads and in some instances businesses.


This time around we had a bit of the same. Although our total accumulation was “only” around 15″, at one point it snowed for 55 straight hours at different intensities and we had 4 straight days of below zero weather. While we laughed at the name of the weather pattern we were having, called bomb cyclone, we knew the overall weather wasn’t anything to laugh about.

During this same period, I gave an interview with the JKWD podcast duo on the subject of leadership. I was asked what I thought the top 3 most important things were that makes a good leader. My first response was empathy.

When people use the word empathy in general conversation, sometimes they’re accused of being soft and emotional. In my opinion, not only is empathy a strength, but it’s definitely one of the strongest powers of great leaders… maybe not overly successful leaders but leaders who others want to work with and for.

I see empathy as a way to get along with others, communicate with others and gain trust from others. When you make positive emotional connections with others as a leader, people will go out of their way to help make you successful.

Empathy starts with small things like saying hello to people instead of walking by them as if they don’t exist. I mean “all” people, even those who don’t work for you. When I was in leadership I could and did talk to everyone who worked where I did; the position never mattered because in my opinion every position was important.

Empathy means that when you notice someone is in distress or their work suddenly isn’t up to par that you’ll take the time to talk to them to find out what’s wrong. Sometimes all anyone wants you to do is listen. Sometimes they might need some free time away. Whether you decide to help further is up to you, but being empathetic shouldn’t pull you deeply into other people’s problems.

Being empathetic means doing the right thing when it’s called for. Instead of writing about it I’m going to share this video I did about it:


https://youtu.be/ojF3lCmi6IE

Empathy puts you in touch with the emotions of the office. When you’re tuned in, you know when things are going well or when something’s off. You get a feeling one way or the other, and when it’s a bad feeling, you have the opportunity to get the ship righted. Disengaged leaders not only don’t fix things in time, but quite often they either overreact when something happens or they ignore it completely. Since we all know problems never go away, this is obviously a bad thing.

Empathy means you don’t yell at people. You don’t harass members of the opposite sex. You’re not racist or bigoted. You don’t say off the cuff remarks or walk around telling inappropriate jokes. What it means is that with every action you take, business or not, you take into consideration how it might make others feel.

This doesn’t mean you acquiesce and not do something you think is the right thing to do. It means you acknowledge that others might not agree with what you want to do but they’ll give you an opportunity without much complaint because you’ve built enough equity with them that they trust your judgment and know that changes aren’t personal.

In leadership, you get what you give. If you’re an empathetic leader, you already understand this.
 

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