Throughout my career, I have always made the effort of observing those around me; in a professional or social setting. I found that by noticing their behavior and reactions during conversations and incidents that transpire; it provides a powerful reflection about the person. There is a great deal that you can know about someone by watching them more than listening to their words. Practicing this even with those closest to you can reveal why they conduct themselves in a particular manner and helps you to better understand the person and appreciate what they might be going through. In a nutshell, the more you observe, the more empathetic you become.
When in a leadership position, the same principle applies; through the power of observation you become an empathetic leader; it allows you to become non-judgmental, to apply curiosity by asking meaningful questions that bring value and to truly listen during a debate; listen to understand rather than to reply. An empathetic leader is one who wants to leave their mark and build a legacy, not only by doing but by helping those around him rise to his level of intellectual and practical prowess. It is the kind of leader who fears for their reputation and truly lets it speak for himself rather than advertising his or her achievements.
In a previous post, I had spoken about some leadership skills I learned from my daughters by paying attention to their conduct in the face of obstacles they run into as children. One other person, very close to my heart, that I used to observe whenever I had the chance, was my late father, who recently passed away. I did that unconsciously thanks to his charismatic personality, the way he interacted with those around him and his general outlook on life. It is only by being present in the moment and witnessing him in action, that I was able to savor the meaning of things like passion for work, his love for sharing his knowledge and his candid appreciation of those who supported him. This article is both a tribute to him as well as a short study into what made him such an empathetic leader throughout his career. In my view, it revolved around three guiding principles: Dedication, Authenticity and Discipline. These three attributes combined are enough to develop a leader’s sense of emotional intelligence which is crucial in understanding the needs of your employees and customers and is a guaranteed way to success.
From a young age, I would watch my father tirelessly juggling many projects that he was passionately working on; going out of his way to solve all problems that would come his way and pulling strings to make sure that everything is delivered on schedule and with the best quality possible. He achieved all of this with a great sense of pride that he was doing something no other has attempted before and that would bring a great deal of value to the public. This level of dedication is what’s required for any focused leader who understands the importance of having self-awareness which allows him to play on his strengthens and overcome his shortcomings. Dedication also leads to the necessity of planning and careful consideration of the outcomes of your decisions; by applying yourself to your work, you go through great length to ensure that your team delivers and that objectives are met. In short, dedication develops the ability to have a broad outward view on how your actions impact others, the business and your future in the organization.
Leaders who demonstrate consistent behaviors that are a reflection of their true selves are said to be authentic. By having clear objectives that are transparently communicated, leaders can rally their teams around a common goal. These goals are built upon a solid foundation of values and principles that are unhinged against temptations or setbacks and they exemplify them with their teams in the hope that they flow onto them.
Thanks to their genuine disposition, they understand what it takes to succeed, are willing to help those around him grow without concern and is of vital importance for them that recognition is made against their team’s participation in success. This last trait can be illustrated when my father was lately being presented with an honorary award for his work and during his five minutes long speech, he foregoes any mention of his achievements and rather made certain to thank each of his team members by name. He understood that he cannot shine alone and that a leader’s team is the reason for his/her success.
For the most part, discipline and dedication go hand in hand, however, no matter how dedicated one can be to a cause, a project or a task, without the right level of self-management, all efforts will probably go to waste. Needless to say, it’s the leader’s responsibility to direct the attention of his team to where it needs to be and to maintain it there in the face of distractions. Discipline also enables you to remain calm during conflict and to quickly recover in the case of failure. On a personal level, disciplined individuals are more likely to succeed in life, due to their cognitive ability to control their emotions and reactions and to carefully consider the long term options when at a crossroads. Watching my father work, I would see him spending a considerable amount of time doing research and proofing his work before actually delivering it. I would see him reaching out to his colleagues and even his family when he needed to make an important decision; taking everyone’s opinion and then making the final call. He knew that his name was attached to his work and he was not going to be jeopardizing the sanctity of his reputation thanks to his discipline.
My father was the epitome of grace, kindness, and intellect. I didn’t hear it from him and I didn’t see him talking about his qualities or achievements to others; I only witnessed it by observing him. We are surrounded by great people who perform miracles every day against their challenges and we definitely have something to learn from each one if we spend enough time in their consideration and being empathetic enough towards them.