How do you go beyond being a boss to being a leader? How do you create a corporate culture where employees can thrive on their own without constant input? How do you get your leadership to bring about change that goes deeper than mere operational efficiency?
By adjusting your management style, you could change the course of your whole company. Not a small claim to make, but it’s one that I’ve seen in action firsthand.
Listening to the silences in between
It begins with something so simple: listening. Paying attention to the people around you matters. As a business leader, whether you’re a CEO or a manager, or an employee yourself who knows there’s a leader lurking underneath, you need to make the time to pay attention to people.
As the CEO of a wholesale import company, no one knows better the tight schedule that the modern world keeps us to. But it’s being there in the small moments between operations that help you identify the strengths and struggles that fall through the cracks of established processes. And it’s here where you learn how to really help your team improve.
Be strong enough to be gentle
It’s important to remember that empathy doesn’t mean giving in or allowing the wrong to go on unaddressed. When empathy becomes part of the equation, you need to bring a level of radical candor to the working environment where honest communication can thrive.
Because if no one’s addressing the shortcomings and failures, then nothing can improve.
But remember, it often takes a gentle hand that understands the struggles of another person, to really pick them up and help them achieve more. You need empathy to recognize the moments when you need to push and when you need to step back.
And most of all, you need to learn that falling is part of the plan.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
I’m the first to admit that change is a tricky and sometimes downright difficult part of business growth. It’s mostly because it requires us to move outside of our comfort zones and push ourselves. And when we try to do that, we sometimes fail.
But being wrong and failing is part of every job and every profession. That’s why it’s so easy for us to walk on eggshells when we enter sensitive territory. But if you’ve created a workspace where people feel safe, where they know they’re understood, candor won’t feel like antagonism anymore. It will be exactly what it is: a helping hand to achieve something more.
To really push a team and help them achieve greatness requires a fair deal of empathy. Only with empathy, truly being keyed into people’s experiences and journeys, will you be able to push people when it really matters. Because both of you will be sensitive to the underlying fears and gains in each challenge.
It’s okay to lose. That’s something employees need to know. As long as you try again. As the Samuel Beckett line goes, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” When you’re leading with empathy, that’s what they’ll do. They’ll keep on trying. Even if every so often they fail. Because when you aren’t afraid of failing, you gain the confidence to actually make a difference.
See things from different angles
For empathy to really work you need to see things from different angles. Throughout my career people have commented on my ability to delve into topics on a granular, detailed level and also to take a step back to see the panoramic whole. That same duality is what drives empathy. Because at the end of the day, it’s simply the ability to see things from a different perspective.
Coming from a diverse cultural background helped prepare me for leading a multicultural international team and made it a bit easier for me to accept others’ perspectives. But there’s an eagerness that runs through me to really understand people and build connections with them that go beyond my background. And bringing that connectedness to a team, and seeing how big an impact it has on others’ lives, is worth the effort.
Let empathy lead to holistic compassion
Empathy is something that doesn’t get nearly enough credit in the entrepreneurial and business leadership realm. On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss it as something far too personal for the corporate world. On the other hand, it’s a concept that many give a wide berth because it requires you to be vulnerable toward people who need to see you as a steadfast north point.
Yet empathy can lead to genuine compassion. And that’s the key. When business leaders bring authentic empathy and compassion to the table, it introduces a new dynamic to the equation. It acts as a reminder that we’re working with people who bring more to the team than professional skills and business insights – we all bring hopes and dreams and histories as well. And if those facets are ignored, they are the facets that will influence how an employee and even a business leader sees their work environment.
That’s why we need to create ecosystems where every part of the team is acknowledged.
Creating a space where dreams can thrive
Empathy leads to doors opening and letting others in. And I don’t mean that in a purely emotional sense.
Really allowing others into your business, giving them a space where they can nurture their ideas and hopes, is a hell of a difficult thing. As any business founder will tell you, giving the reins over to anyone else, even for a moment, is tough. Because to you, it’s more than a business. It’s your idea, your dream coming to life.
Yet when you allow others to dream with you, the results are pure magic.
Leading through empathy: it’s the only way we know how to do this. And we wouldn’t change it for the world. Curious to know more about our approach to building relationships and fostering growth? Get in touch with us, and let’s start a conversation about turning dreams into reality. And while you’re at it, explore our catalog to witness the diverse ingredients that can help make your vision come true.