An insightful article by Ernst J. Wilson in the Harvard Business Review. To read all of it click:
(Suzie Doscher: Here are the points that jumped out at me the most:)
When asking business leaders what attributes executives must have to succeed in today’s digital, global economy. They identified five as critical:
These so-called “soft” attributes constitute a distinctive way of seeing the world.
Later, when we reported the results of our research to other leaders, many said empathy was the most important of the five attributes we had uncovered (though intellectual curiosity and 360-degree thinking were also popular). And this enthusiasm for empathy among business leaders crosses borders. Not only entertainment executives in Los Angeles and IT leaders in Manhattan but also PR professionals in Shanghai and digital businessmen and investors meeting in the Jockey Club in Beijing acknowledged the overwhelming importance of empathy. So did start-up founders in Rome and advertising professionals in Paris. For further proof, just consider that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently signaled that the platform is building some type of button for users to express empathy for someone else’s post.
What is empathy? It is a deep emotional intelligence that is closely connected to cultural competence.
Empathy enables those who possess it to see the world through others’ eyes and understand their unique perspectives.
Empathetic understanding is also indispensable in increasingly diverse markets, like those of the U.S., Germany, and even Japan, and in other cultures around the world. Neither technical knowledge nor business acumen suffices. You must be sincerely interested in understanding other cultural preferences and choices.
Empathy counts inside company walls, too. Many companies have abandoned rigid hierarchies and top-down command, believing that collaboration produces better results than cutthroat competition. In these companies, relationships and persuasion have become essential for success. And to persuade effectively you must be able to empathize.
Consider, too, the millennials, born between 1980 and 2000. They’re a confounding cohort. On the one hand, they’re often caricatured as blithe narcissists, too self-absorbed to look up from their smartphones when they’re talking to you. But whether narcissistic or noble, they are 80 million strong and now dominate the workplace. Leading and managing them requires understanding them individually — the kind of genuine understanding provided not by broad-brush depictions but by empathy.
Though empathy is almost universally seen as desirable, it is not distributed evenly among all levels of management. According to an unpublished survey of our graduates over the past 10 years who now occupy professional positions, empathy is most lacking among middle managers and senior executives: the very people who need it most because their actions affect such large numbers of people.
Empathy isn’t everything, we heard again and again that business leaders want executives at every level to have the whole package — all five attributes:
You can be disposed toward empathy, but incompetent at exercising it if you lack the cultural competence to pick up on cues in your surroundings, the intellectual curiosity to explore other people’s reality, the 360-degree thinking to see all the way around a situation, or the adaptability to accommodate what you have come to understand. But empathy remains an emotional foundation — it’s the “attribute-prime” of successful leaders.
A Practical Handbook