In leadership development sessions, we spend a lot of time getting curious about what it’s like to be the people who report to us.
By definition of how people usually end up in leadership roles, the leader tends to be more capable, better paid, and more secure in their interactions. This dynamic sometimes makes it difficult for leaders to relate to those who live even more paycheck-to-paycheck, is less certain about their future, and can feel inadequate in the presence of their leader in tense conversations.
When leaders put themselves in the mindset of individual contributors, those leaders start to better understand why non-leaders might retreat, get defensive, or react in unpredictable ways. Empathy makes leaders better leaders.
Leaders are people too.
YOUR leaders are people too. Now, take a moment to breathe and ponder this question:
What is it like to be your boss right now?
I asked this question of some leaders recently and got answers like:
- Oh, she’s under a LOT of pressure right now.
- I can’t even get on his calendar for 20 minutes without a lot of juggling. He’s swamped.
- People are fighting her on a lot of initiatives right now, and she has to remain calm.
- I’m glad I don’t have his job right now—there’s a lot of scrutiny.
I didn’t get any answers like :
- His job is a cakewalk.
- I wish I was in her position right now.
- They have it way easier than I do, that’s for sure.
What, then, is the next step?
Be empathetic with your boss, and see the peace of mind and understanding it can bring. When leaders spread their empathy in all directions, it’s better for everyone.