Today I had the opportunity to have a discussion with a very respected individual in educational circles, and I made a comment about leading with empathy. This leader pushed me forward in my thinking a little bit, asking if I meant something different when I say, “leading with empathy”, then what people generally refer to when they talk about “Building Relationships” with respect to the Ontario Leadership Framework.
I have long been a believer that relationships are at the crux of leadership, and when I heard the thoughts of Vivianne Robinson the notion that we build relationships through doing the difficult work, and not necessarily before the difficult work, that really resonated with me.
However, in the discussion today, when I spoke about leading with empathy, I was speaking about something else. I was talking about truly caring about other people. I have seen many leaders who take the time to know a few details of others’ lives so they can have those familiar conversations, but I think leading with empathy involves being able to read people. It is not about building friendships with your direct reports, colleagues, or superiors, but about truly listening and recognizing what motivates and inspires them.
What is their spark?
I’m still working on my understanding of this, and why I think it differs from just “building relationships”, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.