Stop Talking About Leadership: Emotional Connection and Empathy To Grow Together

women talking on a sofa_ Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels
Photo by RF._.studio

Leadership is a topic that has been much discussed over the years; different authors have researched, with different approaches, its fundamental characteristics: the traits and behaviours of the good leader for the success of the team and the company organisation itself.

I decided to go against the tide and voice this thought, which has been swirling in my head. Honestly, I’m a bit tired of reading articles like Mindful Leadership, Intuitive Leadership, True Leadership, The Top 5 Leadership Qualities, etc.

My idea is that we can eliminate this pyramidal concept of leadership and instead work with emotional connection and empathy to grow together professionally and successfully. Of course, this implies a new perspective and above all, a different representation of the concept of work itself (as traditionally understood). 

The Concept Of Leadership

This competence is not required to all workers, but only to those who show the ability to lead other people towards the finish line and, therefore, take up a leadership position. This “captain” must supervise the work done by the other workers, organise it and optimise it to achieve the set results.

From here, we can certainly speculate on the qualities of a good leader. The leader has to be able to enhance the strengths of each team member and help to overcome weaknesses. The leader must free individual talents, but at the same time – although this may seem paradoxical – control them, guide them towards the goal of collective action useful for the organisation.

A good leader dedicates himself to his role with a direct, constant and proactive commitment. He must know how to solve the inevitable clash between different ideas that emerge among other workers; he must know how to create contexts in which this dialectic can take place naturally and without excessive tension or stress.

I think I can define this way of working as “egocentric economy”, and I think it is an outdated concept.

Today, especially in the context of the profound transformation to which the pandemic has exposed us, we need to innovate our business models, and change the very concept of work by developing collaborative models between people, to win the competition and grow together.

For 95% of German managers, the future economy will be based on collaborative models and processes – We economy, Dalai Editore

Teamwork is based on 4 Cs: connectivity, collaboration, cooperation, and co-creation
– Thomas Bialas, HR Consultant

The Collaborative Model

hand signing victory, Photo by Darrel Und
Photo by Darrel Und

In the current scenario, we must develop (or rediscover) skills that allow us to interact with others and connect first of all on an emotional level to achieve better results together in less time. Working together and on an equal footing is not so absurd as it might seem; the secret is to find the right synergies that will allow members of the community to grow together.

Different skills for one goal.

The first advantage is the possibility of using different skills. Great skills in various areas are needed to achieve challenging goals, and one person cannot be expected to have them all.

Within a “community” it is, in fact, possible to exploit the so-called “transversal skills”, personal characteristics that play an essential role in the way of thinking and behaviour, both in social and work contexts.

Examples of transversal skills are diagnostic, relationship, problem-solving, decision making, communication, organisation, time and stress management, initiative, flexibility. These skills are crucial for our professional growth as a group.

Within this “community” there will be potentially different groups: for example, the “creative groups” where individuals are stimulated to produce new ideas, think outside the box and put the various proposals together coherently and constructively. Or the “technical groups” that help to solve technical problems arising, for example, from online work (the new model of working starting from the pandemic and for the future).

An essential skill to work in this model is the ability to communicate, i.e. the ability to adapt our communication to different circumstances, for example, asking the right questions to get the answers we want spontaneously.

A technique that fascinates me a lot is performative language. It is a language that is not limited to providing information or instructions but aims to arouse precise emotions, which stimulate others to perform specific actions in a completely voluntary way.

It is possible through the use of analogies, aphorisms and metaphors that evoke concrete images, giving life and strength to words also thanks to the right tone of voice, pauses and tone with which expressions are formulated.

Another skill to learn is the ability to work independently. It may seem a contradiction, but to work well in a group, you also need to know how to work autonomously. This means being constructively committed to your own interests and those of other members, so you have to learn how to organise your work, because slowdowns, endless procrastination, lack of focus slow down the whole process.

Emotional Connection

hearts on a sunset beach at sunset, Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

Contrary to what is often thought, success and ability to succeed do not depend on an individual’s IQ.

Being endowed with cognitive processing skills is undoubtedly helpful. Still, suppose this ability is not accompanied by the ability to emotionally process the various situations that work (and personal) life presents. In that case, it can be challenging to collaborate with others and know how to manage oneself in often very complicated situations.

Anyone who wants to get out of the traditional schemes of leadership and work must rely on this “emotional processing”, which is made of both empathy and ability to communicate feelings and emotions positively and constructively.

To be able to connect emotionally with others, it is necessary to exercise the following skills, which we all have but often forget to use, taken as we are from the rhythms of a dehumanising working model.

  • Emotional awareness: the ability to recognise one’s own emotions and their impact on us.
  • Evaluation of our reaction, knowing our strengths and weaknesses from an emotional point of view.
  • Confidence in oneself and in the ability to positively resolve conflicts or emotionally demanding situations.
  • Honesty, as a prerequisite for mutual understanding and the establishment of long-term relationships.
  • Discipline to avoid automatic and stereotypical behaviour in all situations.
  • Creativity and inventiveness to find new solutions to new problems.
  • Willing to improve and learn through empowerment programmes.
  • Commitment to achieving personal and professional growth goals.
  • Optimism despite the inevitable obstacles to overcome in every project or initiative.

Empathy

girls hugging_ Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
Photo by cottombro

It is the ability to feel others without claiming to replace them.

However, it is useless to deny the difficulty of understanding the points of view and feelings of others, significantly if we grew up in a family with difficulty in showing and managing emotions. Some believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness, and this makes it difficult to enter into empathic relationships. But emotions are a normal and healthy part of life.

Here are some ways to develop empathy healthily and gradually:

  1. Opening up to different people and cultures. We often look for people similar to us, forgetting that it is precisely those we feel are different who can teach us something new. In this way, we can take a step outside our comfort zone and open ourselves to patterns of thinking different from those we are used to. Travelling, for example, helps us to get in touch with experiences that can change us, but for now, I’m afraid we have to wait for the health emergency to end quickly. 
  2. Being curious. Curiosity helps to bring people and situations closer together with the desire to understand. When approaching with sincere curiosity, it is easier to give others full attention. Practising active listening and asking questions are great ways to learn more about what others think and feel. Observing body language is another clue to how someone might feel.
  3. Asking open questions. Open-ended questions are those that do not presuppose an answer yes/no but require articulated answers and the expression of evaluations, opinions and thoughts. This allows for more information to be collected.
  4. Controlling pre-judgments. We may have pre-judgments about others because of their appearance, their religion, their nationality or even their accent. And these prejudices can affect the way we think and interact with others, often without realising it. For this reason, it is crucial to notice how we feel and what we believe when we meet people who trigger emotional reactions. The goal is to achieve greater awareness of what drives us away from others.
  5. Search for common interests. It is easier to develop empathy, starting with what we share. It can help to feel a connection that might otherwise not be there.
  6. Taking on different perspectives. No one else has lived the same life experience as us. Different backgrounds, thoughts and attitudes make us who we are. Everyone brings a diverse mix to the table. When we consider the perspective of another person, we need to think about what could happen in their lives, and that could have an impact on them. Do they have a different background or experience that shapes who they are and their thoughts and beliefs? When we understand more about where they come from, we can start working from there.

The great gift of us human beings is that we have the power of empathy; we can all feel a mysterious bond that unites us. (Meryl Streep)

For all these reasons I think it is obsolete to talk about leadership as traditionally meant, I believe that each of us should aspire to be leaders of ourselves and look for an alternative working model, based on emotional connection and empathy.

All our models and preconceptions are collapsing one after the other in the current context of a health crisis. Not only traditional leadership is outdated, but the entire traditional economy is outdated.

Remaining anchored in the past and not exploring new models, new possibilities exposes us to significant risks and condemns us to remain immobile in a rapidly changing world.

Changing the working model is the first step on the road not only to success but to survival in material and above all emotional terms.

According to a Deloitte survey conducted on 3,600 European workers, those working in an environment that encourages innovation and collaboration enjoy greater job satisfaction (+34%). This trend is confirmed on a large scale worldwide.

This is the change I made a year ago. Since then, I find myself working and collaborating within a community of highly motivated people committed to achieving my own goals.

For this reason, I believe that the concept of community and collaborative model is a must to evolve and free oneself from the dangers of the economic crisis.

I left my corporate work behind me and launched my business, confident that I was moving within a supportive community and that I would never feel alone or abandoned in my path.

Empathic web marketing is the great revolution of our days. It offers multiple possibilities, so I invite you to register for this Free Training if you want to find out what it is about and if you’re going to evaluate the possibility of expressing your potential.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *