A good leader should be able to do more than just see the cold, hard facts of a situation. A great leader is someone who can inspire others to a cause. If you want to get people behind you, you must first make an authentic connection with them; and to connect with people authentically, you have to find common ground with them. When it comes to making honest connections with people, empathy is the greatest asset in a good leader. Empathy allows you to really feel where the other person is coming from, and in an article by Ginny Whitelaw posted on Fast Company, you can find out why this is so important.
Empathy is the Greatest Asset in a Good Leader
Anything we’re trying to make happen as a leader involves other people, and the fact is, most people don’t have to follow us. They don’t have to believe in our great ideas, buy our great products, or do what we want them to do. Even when we have authority–as parents of teenagers will tell you–our power doesn’t go very far without others believing that what we want them to do is in their best interests. The pull of connecting to others and their interests is far more powerful than the push of control, especially when we find the intersection between their interests and our goals. How do we know what’s truly in someone else’s interests?
“Become the other person and go from there.” It’s the best piece of coaching advice I ever received, coming from Tanouye Roshi, and it applies equally to influence, negotiation, conflict, sales, teaching, and communication of all kinds. To become the other person is to listen so deeply that our own mind chatter stops; to listen with every pore on our body until we can sense how the other’s mind works. To become the other person is to feel into her emotional state, see through her eyes, think like she thinks, and see how she views us, our proposition, and the situation at hand. To write it out or read it in serial fashion makes it sound like a lengthy, time-consuming process, but in fact, deep empathy conveys its insights in a flash, and our ability to empathize deepens with practice, as we learn to quiet our own inner state.
It is important to remember that people who are inspired by you will be inspired to authentically represent your cause as his or her own cause. The only way you can cultivate that kind of response in another person is to first find out how you can best serve them. To do that, you have to really know where the other person is coming from, which is why empathy is the greatest asset in a good leader.