Leadership is Empathy

Through my research I settled on a statement that I think everyone should become aware of: “The human heart desires to be heard, understood, and acknowledged.” As a husband, father, and leader, I try to “practice what I preach” so I listen to my wife and my kids. In some of the conversations and media consumption my wife and I have been going through lately, we have been diving into empathy.

This morning I happened to listen to a podcast with John Maxwell and Simon Sinek in which Simon stated something so succinctly that I wanted to share it:

When I hear people talking about the system is broken. There’s no mythical system, it’s us. Our society is a collection of individuals, and whatever the balance of behaviors from those individuals is the system you get. And so, it starts at home, it starts with us, and so, we want to change the system, this elephant, the only way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time. And so, I think we need to set ourselves in a course to become better listeners ourselves, and there’s a difference between listening and hearing. You know, hearing is understanding the words that are said to you, listening is trying to get to the meaning of the words that are said to you, with an appreciation that sometimes people say the wrong thing, they say what they’re trying to say badly. Sometimes emotions are involved, sometimes they get flustered, and it’s not for us to take their words personally, or to even pick apart, but to rather try and show up with curiosity, to really understand the meaning. What I’m describing is empathy. We show up with empathy. That’s all this is, and to look past the superficial.

Simon Sinek

I appreciate all that is said in that paragraph. I was really grateful that he discusses looking past the superficial. In a conversation I had the other day, I was discussing how the individual was upset and I understood their being upset, but they were focusing on a secondary issue and not the primary issue.

I aim to focus on the primary first and to put the second things second. With empathy, I want to “draw out” the depths of what the individual in front of me is saying.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Proverbs 20:5