Thursday, January 29, 2015

Empathy as a Key Element of Digital Leadership

Empathy is about thinking as if you were in the other party's position.

Business today is overcomplex and the world becomes hyper-connected; what’re the key success factors in leadership effectiveness, and what does it mean to become an empathetic leader?

Empathy is about thinking as if you were in the other party's position. Empathy is a great leadership quality that's often overlooked. Showing empathy helps a great leader infuse their employees with the company's mission and even better, their own life purpose or career goals. Transformation is dependent on motivation...and the two feed each other in a virtuous cycle. Such soft skill that can help is the ability of a leader to communicate with empathy, that it's better to be open to new ideas and risk having failures than to be close minded and miss a brilliant idea. Frequently those brilliant ideas come from empowered knowledge workforce and empathetic leadership.

Empathy can be developed via listening and learning: Valuing people as your assets is so important. You keep your team happy and they would keep the customers happy. And sometimes the most difficult for developing leaders is the ability to listen. Giving people the time to voice an opinion or perspective is a powerful way to demonstrate your respect and build trust. Remaining calm and offering a view with perspective will make people want to engage you on any topic. The single most important soft skill is the leaders’ ability to motivate others to take a leap of faith into the unknown with them. Transformation can't happen unless and until the critical mass of knowledge workers are prepared to work in 'greyscale' and accept a large degree of unknowns. Empathy can help to understand the challenges that the teams, customers, and all other stakeholders face. Only when a leader motivates employees by creating an environment of risk taking and tolerance, can employees take that leap of faith to achieve greatness. That 'greyscale' area is often murky, and it can be frightening.

Empathy means using the right language with the right people."Nothing in the world, in business or in life, is black and white. It could be hinting at another important skill for great leaders, which is respecting other people as if you were in their position. What you say to one person in a culture that stresses independence and individual performance, for instance, may not be as effective when speaking to a person whose culture stresses collaboration and group consensus; judging the right language to use in different situations only comes from wisdom and experience. It's not born to a leader. Empathy is a very important soft skill that is frequently undervalued. Too many business leaders have a "my way or the highway" mentality and don't value the opinions of their employees enough.

Communicating effectively at the correct time is an invaluable skill for showing empathy. Communication is an important "soft skill" for leaders and managers. The ability to not simply have empathy, but to exercise and convey that in a genuine and accessible fashion. The nature of the managerial position can be isolating, but to move from manager to being an actual effective leader requires scaling that boundary and remaining closely engaged with the people who are relying on you to provide thoughtful and meaningful direction. Opening your mind to the diversity of culture and opinion is extremely important in learning empathy. In today's global marketplace and interconnected world, such flexibility is becoming a necessity and even imperative.

Empathy is absolutely one of the most critical elements of digital leadership, it means an open mind to understand how others think and value; it means proactively gaining cognizance of your environment and adapt to it; it means the thoughtfulness of not only knowing what to say, what not to say, also how to say, and when to say;  it means appreciating the diverse thoughts and opinions and converge them to capture the new knowledge and insight, and it helps improving leadership maturity.


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