In many companies, we can still find a CEO and a manager. CEOs lead, managers delegate the work. But even the most successful people, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Boris Johnson, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, are leaders, too.
Great Leaders Share This Quality
They don’t push or give orders to anyone. Neither do they feel the need to check on their co-workers. Great leaders don't control anyone. It is quite the opposite, they motivate their employees and lead by example. Thanks to being empathetic, they positively impact the overall performance of their team.
This might sound unreasonable. However, empathy can be learned and we can train it, too. It is one of the basic communication skills. Tactical empathy is one of the most effective techniques in negotiation. In the past, this view was not perceived as relevant. However, empathy is believed to be one of the most important tools in leadership nowadays.
In the summer of 2023, Chris Voss contacted me to be part of his project. Chris is one of the most popular negotiators in the world. He is also author of the total bestseller about negotiation Never Split the Difference. Me, Voss, a former elite FBI negotiator, and other experts, cooperated on a book called Empathetic Leadership. Which is going to be published in the U.S. in spring 2024. It is planned to be available in other large book markets, too.
'Empathy is believed to be one of the most important tools in leadership nowadays.'
- Radim Pařík
Your Co-worker Is Not Your Enemy
People in the highest-ranking roles at organizations, including managers, are usually remarkably successful. But the biggest enemy of success tends to be success itself.
And this issue is common especially for complex personalities. People who underestimate the abilities of others and overestimate their own. People with complex personalities often search for help from experts in communication.
Let's take as an example paranoid people. They are a distinctive and problematic type of complex personalities. Often, they have trust issues. And tendencies to constantly check on everyone and everything around. They often perceive people around them as enemies. In general, such paranoid people tend to be an endless source of conflict.
In empathetic leadership there is no room for paranoia. Therefore, never treat others as your enemies. Your co-workers play on the same team. Your purpose is to help each other, cooperate, and do your best to achieve the common goal. As a leader, you should prevent situations filled with excuses, defenses, and arguments. If someone uses argumentation, they want to show you that they are right, and you are wrong.
Never use arguments when arguing. And never bring up the past mistakes to reproach others. With this you would only add fuel into the fire of the irreconcilable conflict. Do quite the opposite. Keep quiet and listen to what the other person says.
Many of you would be surprised how difficult it is to keep quiet. The average Czech person can only listen for 4 seconds. Then, they’ll feel the compulsive need to overcome the awkward silence. Remember, when you talk, you can’t get to know the other person. Neither can you gain any new information. And as a leader, you must keep a good track of information. So, listening is something you must master.
As an active listener, you build and strengthen relationships with people. Also, you show them respect, sympathy, and understanding by being attentive and keeping an opinion to yourself.
Don’t Moralize Liars
Surely, it has happened to you that someone from your team lied in your eyes. It is usually not difficult to spot a lie. Even if you don’t know what the truth is. A liar is often exposed with the vehemence they justify their falsehood.
People lie because they feel they are in danger. Stop succumbing to your emotions. And don’t moralize them. It is seldom their aim to hurt you with a lie. The reason they act like this is because they are afraid of your reaction to the truth. You must take responsibility. For failing to create a safe space where your co-workers would feel comfortable to share the negative with you.
What happens when you moralize a liar? You let them know that you are a good person, and they are a bad one. What does it lead to? To the devastation the relationship. Remember this and never try to catch a liar. Think about their reasons for not being truthful. Focus on the important things. And ask them questions that would help you to understand their behavior. Those might be: ‚I must miss something.’ ‚I miss the point.’ ‚Could you please explain it to me?’ Simply, give them a chance to get out of the pit of liars themselves.
'It is seldom their aim to hurt you with a lie. The reason they act like this is because they are afraid of your reaction to the truth.'
- Radim Pařík
With this said, empathy can be trained. Empathy at its core is about controlling one’s emotions. If a person is not able to control their emotions, they surely can’t control the emotions of others. I believe that each of us has witnessed a situation when the other person said, ‚Calm down and use your brain.’ Maybe you don’t want to hear it, but this sentence is a detonator of an emotional grenade.
Human beings act and decide based on emotions rather than on reason. In fact, reason is just a good liar.
Imagine this situation:
Everything irritates you at work. You are busy with routine tasks. Plus, small issues keep arising. Therefore, you are getting increasingly frustrated. The most allergic you are to the emotional outbursts of your co-workers and boss. And when your boss comes to you during a lunch break and asks you how you like it there, you become afraid that they might want to fire you. So, your reply is: ‚It’s great. I especially like the shared time sheets. It helps us to be more effective, I think. Finally, the whole team has everything under control. Maybe... the salads in the canteen could be fresher.’
If you’ve never been in this exact situation, believe me, you've been in a similar one. We all love our mums. And let's be honest, how many of you would tell her during a family lunch that meat is tough?
Control Your Emotions
There are many tactics for the stabilization of emotions.
The most common ones are:
- Mirroring – Repeating the last three or four words of the person to prove you listen to what they say.
- Hug – Probably the oldest manipulative technique. It proves that people are not able to refuse thanks.
- Labeling of emotions – Giving your emotion the right name. By doing this, the emotion loses its power. Try it. Think of one emotion that influences you the most these days. And label it.
- Disagree respectfully – Always disagree respectfully. Each of us has different opinions and attitudes. Also, each of us has a different history. Therefore, it is impossible to agree with every point of view of another person.
Life would be too monotonous if we agreed on everything with everyone. Be glad each of us brings something new to society. And if you don’t agree with someone, do it with respect to their thinking, point of view, and belief. It does not matter whether your communicating partner is your teammate or your family member.
'Always disagree respectfully.'
What I Learned from Mossad
The first impression is important. But if it is not good, you have a chance to improve it. But there are no chances to improve the last impression. Therefore, the last impression matters much more.
Never leave a meeting room by slamming a door. No matter what happened during the meeting. If you slam the door, you slam it into your co-workers’ faces. And no one wants that. Remember you will cooperate with your co-workers in the future. Therefore, you need to have nice relationships with them. Remember that a bad last impression will most probably make your future worse.
Therefore, always keep the door open. And leave a room showing respect to the other side. It will cost you nothing. Quite the opposite, it is going to be incredibly beneficial for you.