An Empathetic Leader
I’ve read Good to Great. I’ve read Leaders Eat Last. I’ve studied the principles in Start With Why. I’m obsessed with this concept of leadership. How do I become a great leader? By great, I mean someone who isn’t one dimensional - someone who can resonate with everyone - someone who can see past hateful words - someone who can make tough decisions - someone who can admit when they have done wrong...
Empathy. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Is that possible?
One of my favorite passages of all time comes from The Greenhouse by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir:
“Can a person who has been brought up in the heart of a thick dark forest, where one had to beat a path through multiple layers of trees just to take a letter to the post office, have any conception of what it's like to spend one's entire childhood waiting for a single tree to grow?”
I’ve pondered this question over and over again. Never, have I been able to rationalize the thought that a person could possibly conceive of that notion.We are all a product of our experiences, aren’t we?
With that idea in mind, I feel as if the concept of being empathetic is one of the most difficult to achieve. No matter your situation, someone else’s will always be different - even if you feel that you are facing the same battles. Situations affect us differently - words affect us differently. Why? Because experience is the predecessor to significance, and not a single one of us have had the same experiences.
So, as I strive to become an empathetic leader - one who resonates and understands everyone - I realize it’s impossible. However, the more I focus on the concept of empathy, the better leader I become. Because, while I know I’ll never walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, I also know they’ll never walk a mile in mine.
The thick dark forest couldn’t have grown without multiple types of fertilization.