What’s more important  – Empathy, Transparency, Humility or Mastery?

Today is our second in a 4-part series on the pillars of leadership – the characteristics of the Elegant Leader that drive Voltage. Empathy begin deinfed as the capacity to have an awareness and understanding of vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another without having them fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.  Elegant Leaders understand and demonstrate this trait to have rhythm between their ego, their relationships and the organization’s results. There’s no balance. It ebbs and flows constantly in the seas of our ever changing envrionment and culture. There is no single more important characteristc, one over another. You have to master yourself first to have people follow you, and empathy is but one trait you must be striving to develop and elevate elegantly.

Read Part I on Transparency here

The success required to have impact and influence within your organization is largely based upon the behaviors, habits and the perceptions of others towards how you model your values and beliefs personally and professionally. By the way, there’s should be no difference in those two realities. Picture if you will, a scale with Respect on one side and Responibility on the other underpinned with the Foundation of Integrity. Empathy, humility, mastery and transparency define the respect side of the  scale of leadership character. These are black-and-white elements and the Elegant Leader’s own character development and behaviors allow them to demonstrate these three key steps:

  1. They are comfortable in the grey,
  2. They are clear concise and compelling in their messaging, and
  3. They understand the value of high influence relationships to deliver high impact results

As the leader you no longer are responsible for “the job.” You are responsible for the people who are doing the job. One reason you became a manager was you were good, better or best at, “The Job.” With those days now over, you now must lead your people to be better and best at their job. To borrow a phrase from the 1950’s, train up your people to be able to wear their own hat effectively and efficiently. Otherwise, you were having to do or to help do their work for them. It is rare in today’s economic climate to find companies who teach how to be a leader anymore. Leadership is a practical learnable skill and one that must be practiced and learned daily if you want to master it.

Many of us are parents, and successful parenting goes hand-in-hand with successful leadership. Everyone has the capacity to be a parent, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to be a parent or should be a parent, or will even be good at it. Elegant Leadership is the same. We all have the capacity to be a leader, doesn’t mean everybody should be a leader, nor does it mean everyone wants to be a leader. It certainly doesn’t guarantee we’re going to be any good at it either. Why? Because all leadership comes at great personal sacrifice.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Why do you go to the gym – to feel better, to improve your health, to look good? Why don’t you workout 6, 8 or even 10 hours a day? I know, ridiculous right? Listen ridiculous, that’s precisely the point. Learn the skill, then replicate, practice and improve the skill.  I enjoy traveling around the country to work with leaders and to speak to many of you. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was fortunate to stay at the Ritz-Carlton and had a great experience with David a concierege there.

One morning, I struck up a conversation with David asking him how long he’d worked there, and how much he liked his job. He glowingly talked about how every manager checks on him and asks if he needs anything or how his day is going; just great communication and a feeling of fulfillment. He said, “I feel like everyone truly cares about me here, and I absolutely love what I do.” He went on to say he also works in the Embarcadero and how much he dislikes the work there. Managers there check on him and try to catch him doing something wrong. David said, ” I hate it there.”

When we create the right environment, as an Elegant Leader, we will get David at the Ritz-Carlton. When we create the wrong environment, we will get David at the Embarcardero. It’s not the people. It’s the leader. If your kid comes home from school with a C, you don’t put them up for adoption do you? Yet, at work, that’s what we do! You’re having performance issues at work and guess what, you’re on a PIP or worse, you need to go. How many times have we heard and even said, “we can’t find good people anymore,” or, “we have to get the right people on the bus,” or some similar crazy nonsense? It’s not the people. It’s the leader! If we create and replicate the right environment, we’ll get the right people!

“The heart of Leadership is putting others ahead of yourself. The cost of Elegant Leadership is sacrificing yourself  to grow your people beyond what they see in themselves.”

When performance isn’t going so well, he Elegant Leader is going to have a conversation and ask what’s going on, what can we do to help. Everyone has performance issues. It could be something at home, or with a family member or even with ourselves. Empathy is caring for the person and not their output.  Success in business is not about maximizing shareholder value anymore. That’s a decades old model that has little to do with how business operates and succeeds in this digital age of globalization. How can you build a sustainable winning team through an old, broken, outdated, ineffecient and ineffective shareholder model?

Wake up! It’s no longer the 80’s and 90’s with booming economy and a relatively stable foreign policy. We’re learning how to lead and to operate in highly-pressurized crisis world cultures. Here’s another broken and outdated model – using mass layoffs to balance the books. Since when is it an acceptable business practice to spew mission statements of trust and loyalty and at the end of the quarter announce a round of layoffs? Well there’s a brilliant idea to reinforce trust and cooperation! “Whew, I survived that round.” Ah, now how do you think you’re going to feel next month? Next quarter? Fear runs rampant in a climate you created as the Disingenuous Leader.

How do we, as leaders, expect anyone to admit they don’t know something when we perpetuate an environment of fear? How are you going to respond to an employee who says, “I made a mistake, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve been hired to perform a job that’s different now since Rick was laid off,” and on and on. Questions are never asked for fear of painting a target on their backs. Everyone keeps it to themselves for fear of losing out “in the next round.” Because of this duplicity, these leaders perpetuate a toxic environment where people lie, hide and fake it.

“It’s the continuous repetitions that get results. Practice and get results. Don’t practice and get results.”

You’ve heard me say the Elegant Leader succeeds in the rhythm of ego, relationships and results. When I look at every failed relationship I’ve had in my life there’s one common denominator – me. Stop looking at your millenials in the workplace and blaming them. It’s not them.  We have to own our failures, learn from them and lead.  Often, I have successful business leaders come to me and ask, “how do I get the best out of my people?” They’re not towels to be wrung dry! You, as the Elegant Leader, understand how to inform, educate, motivate, coach, mentor and guide everyone to be at their natural best every day with Empathy. It’s not about winning or losing, being in charge, or always being the one! Change your perspective and change your results and your relationships.

Read Part I on Transparency here

Get started on your journey to leading elegantly. Elegant Leaders do these 5 things!

Some advice on the right foundation of your Elegant Leadership? Here’s some FREE advice for the New Leader.

Want to impact our organization today? Here’s how to Influence Your Culture and Climate with Impact.

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