Once upon a time decades ago, I asked my first spiritual teacher what he thought was the most important characteristic of a leader. His response was one word, “Compassion.” To me, compassion is the sibling of empathy, and leaders need both compassion and empathy during this challenging time.
Many of us have been approached by others looking for hope and help. Based on our caring for those people, we are happy to give of ourselves. It is our feelings of empathy for others that motivate us to help them. Not surprisingly, at this time leaders are expected to provide a heightened level of empathy to their employees. Much of this Herman Trend Alert is based on information published in a small book titled “Empathy” published by the Harvard Business Review in 2017.
The dictionary definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” But rather than accept that somewhat simple meaning …
Three Types of Empathy
Daniel Goleman, one of the fathers of Emotional Intelligence talks about their being three types of Empathy: Cognitive Empathy is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person. Emotional Empathy is the ability to actually feel what someone else feels. Finally, Empathetic Concern is the ability to sense what someone else needs from you.
Power versus Empathy
In another article, author Lou Solomon talks about the important balancing act that executives must perform to offset their power with empathy. He cites the research of Dacher Keltner at the University of California Berkeley whose studies show that people who have power have shortages of empathy: a good insight for today’s leaders.
At the end of the book is an interview between Daniel Goleman and the Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama believes that compassion actually takes empathy to the next level. To him, compassion makes the leap between understanding and caring. The Dalai Lama believes it is an expression of our love for our fellow humans. He believes that this compassion can have a “hugely positive effect” on our relationships in the workplace. And by contrast, the absence of compassion leads to conflict and dysfunction.
Assessing Empathy: EmQ
So if empathy is important, it just stands to reason that it makes sense to find a way to assess the level of empathy an individual possesses. Since the lack of empathy is a characteristic of autism, most of the assessments are from the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine published a short quiz for those interesting in assessing their EmQ level.
My conclusion is that for leaders having empathy and compassion will have a positive effect on their bottom-line profit.
© Copyright 1998-2020 by The Herman Group, Inc. — reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3548 or http://www.hermangroup.com. To sign up, visit http://www.HermanTrendAlert.com. The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc.”