Empathy and Openness in Leadership
Traditionally, leaders have been revered and feared by the employees and juniors in equal measure. Open communication between the leaders and the employees has been characterized by the issuing of orders. Juniors only received information about the organization through internal memos where feedback was limited. However, even though leaders decision ought to be respected, in a modern setup and with advancement in technology, leaders need to endear to their juniors by building trust through empathy and open communication.
Why Leaders Fail to be Open, Empathetic and to Lead by Their Values
A good leader must have the foresight to detect issues early before they degenerate into complex problems. However, in the current turbulent business environment, most well respected leaders often fail to detect such issues that could degenerate into problems. Thus, they fail develop counter strategies and empathize with the situation because of a variety of hindrances. The major factor hindering leaders from observing the aspects mentioned above is the administrative structures that most organizations use currently. In most organizations, management is literally cut off from the rest of the workforce and is often feared as a major decision-making body. Thus, leaders is such organizations do not interact with employees well enough to foresee operational problems that could easily transform into serious challenges. Similarly, in the administrative structures where management is secluded, leaders do not have the opportunity to interact with the employees who run daily operations. Therefore, in such a scenario, it is difficult for a leader to use empathy and foresight given the limited interaction between the management and the workforce. Therefore, the administrative environment in most cases places a leader above employees. This form of administrative arrangement does not allow open interaction and limits a leader’s ability to lead effectively by applying foresight and empathy.
Why Empathy and Openness Are Important in Good Leadership
Effective managers envision strong empathy leadership skills that thrive on persuasion, influence, motivation, listening, teamwork, and collaboration (Avolio & Yammarino, 2013). An empathic leader senses what the employees think about the organization’s functioning. In the case study, Ken Melrose managed to reduce successfully the Toro lawsuits significantly by 95% because as a CEO, he was able to relate with the client’s needs. Similarly, Melrose was capable of resonating with how the clients felt about the products of the organization, thus showing the company care. A leader should deliberately consider the impact of their decisions on clients and think how they might affect the organization. As a leader, one needs to respond to situations of conflict calmly, taking time to understand what might be true in the eyes of the client. The leader should show care by respectfully enquiring about a client’s personal challenge.
Great leadership is comes not from intimidation and fear but from open communication. Through open communication, a leader is able to get the opinion of those working under him/her. The leader does not become the boss, rather a team leader. Feedback about how the same thing can be done in a better and more effective way is shared through this teamwork spirit. Open leaders are more likely to build diverse teams that are more effective and focused rather than creating executive teams that rely on orders. They value feedback from their juniors, and they are thoughtful and creative problem solvers. Thus, they are flexible, and they encourage information sharing that can result into better decision making.
Furthermore, openness is one way to know whether a leader is appropriate for the position or not. An open leader is more inclined to give much more creative ideas, show a higher level of curiosity, and have more insight into the functioning of their organization (Northouse, 2013). They are capable of decentralizing the organization and tapping into every member’s ideas. This type of information sourcing will contribute greatly to the prosperity of the organization. The openness of a leader will encourage flexibility, the decentralization of decision-making, and movement of information from one individual to another in the organization. When this happens, all people in the organization will work to achieve whatever goals have been set.
An empathic leader has a better chance at leading people since they are willing to understand other people’s needs. To that level, a person, occupying the position lower than the leader, will be more inclined to do a better job without boundaries or restriction since they know that the leader is more likely to hear them out and understand them should a problem arise (Van Wart, 2011). If, for instance, injuries occur in an organization, an empathic leader is more likely to reach a settlement with the injured if they show that they care for the welfare of the injured. An empathic leader also has the ability to encourage people to push their limits beyond what they believe is the breaking point. Thus, people will achieve better results, which will reflect on the leader positively.
Moreover, an empathic and open leader will take their time to take action on important matters affecting people in their organization. They are more inclined to listen to people and ask for input regarding matters in the organization. Thus, openness and empathy are essential for a leader who would wish to understand the people they lead better as well as encourage them to participate actively in the work of the organization.
Leaders should express openness and empathy in their leadership, which will help in creating trust between the leader and the employee, thus resulting in teamwork. Open communication helps the juniors develop loyalty for their leaders. Open communication and empathy towards employees should not be viewed as a weakness on the part of the leader, rather a powerful skill of leadership.