Consistently people who have good empathy for others are proven to be better leaders, lead more effective teams, and gain power more readily. What does it mean to be empathetic? According to Dacher Keltner in a recent Science of Us article (Read it here), it is the understanding of what other people think and feel. Using Abraham Lincoln as an example, he quotes a journalist (Thurlow Weed) from the Albany Evening Journal who said of Lincoln: “He sees all who go there, hears all they have to say, talks freely with everybody, reads whatever is written to him.”
Keltner refers to numerous studies that show the positive results of being empathetic. It increases team effectiveness, one’s ability to negotiate better, widens the circle of friends, and enables one to gain power much more easily. In part this is because when people are heard and understood, they are more willing to be influenced by such people.
However, an interesting phenomenon occurs – Keltner refers to studies that show once empathetic people attain power, they often experience empathy deficits, whereby their empathy disengages. By losing this empathy, people in power then start disrespecting people and those once harmonious relationships are now jeopardised and tend to undo the previous good work.
The challenge for those that do rise to power is to be conscious of this and to purposively commit to maintaining the empathy that got them where they are. As Keltner points out from Lincoln, the secret is to see and hear others.
The Avondale Business School can help you and your team develop leadership skills – find out how by contacting Warrick Long at the Avondale Business School.
P: 02 4980 2168