Empathy — how is it defined? The dictionary says: “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Why is it so difficult to express empathy for someone’s situation?
When we were hacked with a ransomware virus, I was devastated. I felt violated just as if my apartment had been robbed or I had been mugged on the street. Well, that may have been how I felt, but I put myself in stoic commander leader mode and shared the information with my team as matter-of-factly as testimony in a courtroom.
Why was I so disappointed and hurt when they all expressed horror that something like this happening — then went back to business as usual?
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone was operating from the reasonable expectation that I should be able to do what I have always done for the last 40+ years. They expected me to carry on and be professional.
But at that moment I didn’t want to be a professional. I wanted to cry, mourn, and be emotional. I wanted someone to sit with me, hold me and let me just release my emotions. Or maybe take me to a spa for a mani-pedi or a club for cocktails. This is what I wanted and this is not what I was getting. It was the emotional side of me that needed nurturing — I needed empathy.
But at the time I didn’t realize that empathy was a quality of leadership that builds relationships, trust, and collaboration. Not to mention, it helps people feel good.
Drop into your heart
Things changed for me when I learned that I was spending most of my time in my head. That is what a career in the military and corporate worlds does to you. Leadership is leading with “masculine” strengths like commanding others, taking action, analyzing, assertiveness, data-based, concrete thinking. It is completely appropriate for that kind of work; however, that’s not the whole story to being an extraordinary leader.
When you drop into your heart, you are tapping into your emotions and ”feminine” qualities like compassion, patience, using intuition — and empathy. I possessed all of these qualities but they had been tamped down inside so I could be a good “commanding” leader, or so I thought.
The happy ending to my story is that now I am more open to sharing from my heart and happy to receive the empathy, hugs and holding in return!
Comfluential™ Leadership welcomes both head and heart
As a leader of a team or organization, it is so essential that you be able to drop into your heart. I know how easy it is to keep your emotions bottled up and stuffed because you want to be seen as a professional to your team.
What I have learned and now experience is that your team needs to see you being real. If you never show your emotions and always act the professional, they will come to believe that: you don’t care about them personally; they don’t want to become your kind of leader; or they can’t see themselves living up to that example.
You want your team to be authentic and to know that it is alright to be human and to have and show real human emotions. This will inspire your team to greatness.
Linda Patten is a Leadership Trainer for women entrepreneurs and change-makers. Her vision for every woman is to become the natural leader she is meant to be, through teaching an empowering mindset, masculine AND feminine leadership skills (Comfluential™ Leadership), and how to activate a vision into a full-bodied business or social change movement.
For opportunities to awaken and empower the leader within you, please visit Dare2LeadwithLinda.