Compassionate Leaders go beyond empathy


Compassionate Leaders go beyond empathy

Empathy is a connection; Compassion is the wish to see others free of suffering! Leaders do shoulder big emotional burdens: helping teams recover f

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Empathy is a connection; Compassion is the wish to see others free of suffering! Leaders do shoulder big emotional burdens: helping teams recover from the grief and go about the economic challenges, the declining mental health of the employees, the trending lifestyles and being sensitive to people’s anxieties.

Of course, empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of others. The leaders don’t have to take the difficulties of the people they lead onto themselves but should devise solutions. Leaders could extend that emotional helping hand, compassion. It begins with understanding the difference between empathy and compassion.

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The words “empathy” and “compassion,” as well as “sympathy,” are sometimes used interchangeably. They all represent positive traits, but they don’t refer to the exact same experience. It is helpful to consider the two distinct qualities of compassion: understanding what another is feeling, and the willingness to act to alleviate suffering for another.
When we experience pity, we have little willingness to act and little understanding of another’s experience. We simply feel sorry for them.

Archbishop Nkoyooyo once said, “Better to contribute something little, than express only sympathy”. We need to feel for the other person. The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.
With empathy, we have a close understanding of the other person’s experience. We feel with the person. We literally take on the emotions of the other person and make those feelings our own. Though a noble thing to do, it does not necessarily help the other person, except for possibly making them feel less lonely in their experience.

Noteworthy, we have a good understanding of what the other person is experiencing and a willingness to act. Understanding the other person’s experience is greater than empathy because we do our emotional awareness as well as rational understanding. Compassion occurs when we take a step away from empathy and ask ourselves what we can do to support the person who is suffering. Well, compassion is an intention versus an emotion.
As leaders, empathy may influence our judgment, encourage bias, and make us less effective at making wise decisions. However, it should not be completely avoided. A leader without empathy is like an engine without a spark plug; it simply won’t engage. Empathy is essential for connection and then we can leverage the spark to lead with compassion.

In mastering this skill, we must remember that shifting away from empathy does not make you less human or less kind. Rather, it makes you better able to support people during difficult times. We can use empathy as a catalyst for leading with more compassion.
To avoid getting caught in an empathetic hijack when you are with someone who is suffering, try to take a mental and emotional step away. Step out of the emotional space to get a clearer perspective of the situation and the person. By creating this emotional distance, you may feel like you are being unkind. Instead, you are stepping away from the problem so you can help solve it.
Well, when you ask a question “What do you need?” you have initiated a solution to the issue by giving the person an opportunity to reflect on what may be needed. This will better inform you about how you can help. And for the suffering person, better to feel heard and seen.
True, Leaders are generally good at getting tasks done. But when it comes to people having challenges, it is important to remember that in many instances people do not need your solutions; they need your ear and your caring presence. Many problems just need to be heard and acknowledged. In this way, taking “non-action” can often be the most powerful means of helping.
But, Leadership is not about solving problems for people. It is about growing and developing people, so they are empowered to solve their own problems. Leaders should empower the subordinates to solve their issues. Better to coach and mentor them. Show them a pathway to finding their own answers.
Leaders should do authentic self-care. Often called emotional work, the task of absorbing, reflecting, and redirecting the feelings of other people can be overwhelming. Because of this, all leaders must practice self-care: physical exercises, sleep, and eat well. When the leader shows up in the workplace with these qualities, people can lean on him/her and find solace and comfort in his/her well-being
Compassion does not just happen. It’s not a feeling. Compassion is a viewpoint, a way of life, a perspective, a habit that becomes a discipline; and more than anything else, compassion is a choice we make that love is more important than comfort or convenience.

The Writer is the General Manager Commercial Banking at Centenary Bank

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