In a recent WorkLife podcast episode I listened to, the host, Adam Grant, made a statement that resonated deeply. He said, “Let’s ban psychological solutions to organizational problems.” That sentence felt like a 100-pound brick being dropped in my lap! He went on to list common examples that may be all too familiar to many of us – organizations applying employee-based fixes like mindfulness activities, emotional intelligence training, or strategies to avoid personal burnout, when really the organization has deeper rooted issues like the need to remove an abusive boss or diagnose ineffective and inefficient systems. And while I have written on emotional intelligence and avoiding personal burnout on this platform, I think Grant’s idea is valid and warrants exploring.More
Empathy plays a critical role in leadership. It impacts how we interact with and relate to those we lead.
Personally, empathy was a leadership quality near the top of my “needs development” list just a few years ago. Following feedback that I needed to grow this capacity, I invested time and effort to learn more about the science of empathy, ways to integrate it into my leadership style, and practice it to build the muscle. Now, I’m confident that empathy has become a strength of mine, no longer a developmental need.
But experiences this past year have taught me a new dynamic to empathy and leadership that I was blind to before – the need to have empathy up our chain of command or organizational chart. More
I recently had a conversation with an organizational leader who expressed that “empathetic leadership” is one of the biggest threats to the performance of his team. He believed that team members simply sought for their leaders to be more empathetic to their challenges and circumstance (really sympathy), and that leaders felt called to be more nurturing of their people, leading to an inability to maintain high standards of performance. As I listened to this leader speak more on his unapproving perceptions on empathy and leadership, I realized the source of the issue – I think he has an inaccurate and limited view on the role of empathy in leadership.
This issue is not unique to this leader or case. We have an enduring problem in our understanding of empathy and leadership that tends to fall into one of three issues.More