Empathy, Self-Reflection: The ‘Soft-Skills’ of Today’s Leaders

“The world is dramatically reshaped and operates differently. We have gone from an industrial economy where we hired hands, to a knowledge economy where we hired heads, to a human economy where we hire hearts. When machines can out process, outperform and even outthink us, it is the things that machines can not do, the things that come from the heart, that are uniquely valuable and can never be automated or commoditized.” ~ Dov Seidman

So yes, artificial intelligence has everybody trying to figure out this new dynamic, but as the statement attests, some of our roles will always be immune to this new ground-breaking technology. Leaders today should realize that great leaders are the ones that exhibit a skill set that is not replicable. To put this more succinctly, they lead from the heart.

Effective leaders whether today or in the future will lead from their hearts and know the hearts of their team members. Passion, drive, and commitment to quality are all important, but a passionate commitment to your team is what will determine your success, effectiveness and enthusiasm.

I know some of you will glaze over at the mere mention of the “soft stuff,” However, the evidence shows that if this is practiced throughout the organization you can build a better workforce and better culture.

Leadership blind spots

One of my coaching clients told me the story of her husband who has consistently been a senior level executive in his past roles. However, in his new workplace there was a new CEO. As part of his assessment process, the new CEO requested that all his senior team go through a 360. When the results came back they were not a pretty picture. My client’s husband was beside himself over his results. He called her up and went on a rant that it was a setup: “It can’t be…I know that I am a great leader.”

So I was curious as to her thoughts She paused, and as only a wife or significant other can say, she told me everything that he said was not an accurate description of him, was actually a bulls-eye and on point. She talked of how the dinner table conversation would go from time to time. He was the master of the universe as everybody else was stupid or did not have his expertise.

Empathy is part of leadership

Finally, she told him to just calm down and use the services of an executive coach and maybe you can “get better insight.” Reluctantly he agreed and started the process. A few months later, in a moment of reflection, he told her, “I had no idea that I was so out of control.” His self-reflection has forced him to look within. He realized the equation of leadership has a strong measure of empathy.

That case is not isolated. There are numerous people in all of our organizations are out of control like this. And the sad part if that it is infected in the leadership team for the most part. Until they realize that the blind spots have them in a bind, nothing will change their behavior. If that leader had not come in and begun the process of understanding his team, none of this new-found mindset would have ever been realized.

Article Continues Below

Sponsored Content

Outperform your competition with a certification from HRCI®

Whether you want to demonstrate HR skills, prove expertise in advanced operations, best practices and regulations, or make that next step into that executive office, HRCI will help to get you there. HRCI certification is a fast track to success.

Self-reflection is your personal exam

Self-reflection is defined as meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives. We should all consciously set aside time for this level of thinking. This time is specifically focused on questions about your goals, your behavior, and your general state of mind. So set aside time every week to unplug from everybody and everything. The question we should all ask ourselves is: “How am I doing: Work, Personal, Family etc.?” By using this process, it gives you after a period of time an insight as to who you really are.

  • Am I being a person others can respect?
  • Am I meeting the expectations I set for others around me?
  • Am I using my talents fully?
  • Am I performing at my peak capacity?
  • Am I giving my family and friends my most and my best?
  • Am I engaging in worthy activity?
  • Am I making a positive impact on the world or my surroundings?
  • Am I on the path to my preferred future?

What is your score? You may surprise yourself. Don’t be the clueless executive !!

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.