Leading With Empathy During Times of Change

The longer I live, the more I notice how valuable it is to do one simple thing: be kind.
– When someone does a good job, tell them.
– When someone makes a mistake, forgive them.
– When someone tells you their problems, listen.
Being kind barely costs a thing. You’ll hardly remember you did it, but the other person may never forget that you did.
-James Clear

Note: This is an excerpt from the book, Empathy Every Day.

In a 2008 study conducted by the University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues, participants were given five dollars to spend throughout the day.

The study participants could spend the small amount of money however they wanted, with one important caveat: half of the participants had to spend the money on themselves, while the other half of participants had to spend it on someone else.

When the researchers followed up with participants after spending their money, they found something interesting and something that surprised many people involved in the study.

The participants who spent the money on other people were actually happier than the participants who spent money only on themselves.

But, it is not just about money…

These types of “pay it forward” chains are often shared in the news when one person offers a small favor the recipient is likely to offer the same favor to someone else. Drive-through windows or check-out lines are often a hotspot for these types of chains.

Well, this is now backed by a new study out of Northeastern University. The researchers found that people really do want to pay it forward when someone else helps them — and the reason is that they feel grateful.

This experiment was set up so that participants would experience a problem with their computer halfway through the study. When someone else helped the subject fix their computer, the subject subsequently spent more time helping a new person with a different task. In other words, when we feel grateful for the kindness of others, it motivates us to want to help someone as well.

When we help others we are happier. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it is a major reason empathy impacts our mood and general wellbeing.

Lolly Daskal put it perfectly in her article, “Why The Empathetic Leader Is the Best Leader“:

Empathy is a leadership competency – like no other skill- that can make a big difference when it comes to leadership.

Empathy means being able to understand the needs of others. It means you’re aware of their feelings and their thinking.

It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their point of view, but- it means that you’re willing to understand and appreciate it.

Many people are quick to empathy as a touchy-feely skill. But in truth, it can be difficult to master and demanding to maintain, and it has a major impact on leadership.

At the core, leadership is ultimately about others. It means inspiring them to take actions beyond their capabilities, leading them in a direction that is compelling and inspiring. And empathy is the foundation of those actions.

To echo Mr. Roger’s words, we can “look for the helpers”, but we can also “be the helpers”:

Get the Innovative Teaching Toolbox

Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply