Arriving in Haiti in early 2010 was a devastating experience. As our plane circled the nation’s capital, my team and I fell silent. With a bird’s-eye view of the impoverished city, we gazed in awe at the sheer devastation of the magnitude 7 earthquake.
As I grappled with the gravity of the disaster, I knew I’d need to do more than blithely offer instructions. To effectively provide relief to the disaster victims, I’d need to support my team as human beings, not just as employees.
Whether handling natural disasters, financial emergencies, or public relations nightmares, leaders must come to terms with their emotions and empathize with their teams to properly address crises.
Disengaging our feelings and digging through the rubble might seem like wise courses of action, but the best leaders know that empathy forges the strong bonds that engage the hearts and minds of team members.
Empathy as a Business Tool
Often confused with pity, empathy might sound like a soft, fuzzy emotion that drains us of time and energy. Actually, it’s quite the contrary—it’s an incredibly valuable tool for today’s leaders. Brené Brown, a well-known sociologist and the author of Daring Greatly, says empathy involves connecting with the emotion someone is experiencing, not the event or circumstance. “It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message of, ‘You’re not alone,’” Brown writes.
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