Leadership, at its core, is about being able to embrace people where they are, see the full potential of where they can be, and inspire them to move toward that potential. This is an investment in the life of the employee as well as an investment in the future of the company.
To have empathy, one must desire to understand who another person is and where they are coming from. This desire originates from the focus of the leader. As leaders, we must have an outward mindset, seeking to truly see the people around us and understand their lives, as well as to measure their reactions to our leadership. In our constantly moving society, we seem to have lost that outward focus at some point. I remember watching the things both my father and my grandfather did to help others. They invested time and energy in bringing people up to a higher level of their potential. They did not feel sorry for them, though. They felt empathy for them.
Each of us has a choice to make. We must choose to either to love or to judge and fear. Bad leaders spend their time judging others and fearing that they will be found out. Good leaders spend their time pushing others and evaluating results. Great leaders spend their time connecting with others and inspiring greatness in all aspects of their lives. They still evaluate the metrics of their people's success, but they do it with them, not to them. This choice not to lose that loving feeling towards others is one that changes the landscape of an organization. It is important to point out that there is no honor in judging others from any direction. Honor comes from connection and caring, from a life full of empathy.
Although counterintuitive in an always pushing type of corporate world, empathy is perhaps the most important skill of a leader. It is even something that can be learned. It is simply learned by the leader focusing on seeing the best in others, seeking to understand others, and building the potential of others. I don't know when we really began to lose that loving feeling towards employees, but I hope today is the day we begin to get it back. I would encourage you to spend at least 5 minutes today with your eyes closed, simply thinking about all great things your employees offer. Think about their lives, their growth, their potential, and their dreams. See how you feel after you meditate on the good that each of them has to offer.