Trust and Empathy in Leadership
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
This quote rings true for me in both my personal and professional life. When it comes to the professional part, it speaks to how I operate as a LEADER.
Simply put…I CARE.
I care about my clients.
I care about deadlines and the details of each project.
I care about my goals and how to achieve them. I care about growing my company. And yes, I care about my bottom line, financially.
And also, this is very important…
I care about my team, both personally and professionally.
I know that I can’t do all of these things alone.
I understand that I don’t operate in a vacuum.
I know that I need a team and that I need to lead my team.
Being an effective leader can be the difference between your business being a success or a failure.
So HOW you lead is vital.
One could rule with an iron fist (and I know many that do). Maybe instill fear in the hearts of those around you.
Or lead by example.
… The list goes on and on.
When it comes to business, however, I find there is no greater, or more successful tool than EMPATHY.
Understanding the needs of others is the first step toward effective leadership and success in business.
What you do with this understanding is where the rubber meets the road.
A recent Pew Research study found that, on average, only 50% of working Americans were satisfied with their jobs. Even more disturbing was the finding that 30% were just doing their jobs ‘to get by.’
If you’re not doing something you’re passionate about…Something that gets you out of bed in the morning and that you’re energized and happy doing…then why do it at all?
As a leader, it’s my responsibility to know that my team is happy, motivated, excited, and passionate.
But above all those, I want my team to feel safe, heard, and cared for.
Simon Sinek writes about this in his incredible book, ‘Leaders Eat Last.’
In it, he describes a ‘Circle of Safety.’ Aesop gave us a shining example in this fable:
A lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them, but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.
At last, however, they fell a-quarreling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.
There is a basic idea here. Working together as a team makes us stronger and safer and we can thrive.
But there is a deeper and more specific message here.
Each ox (in Aesop’s case) felt SAFE to dwell, graze, and generally do what oxen do. Their ‘jobs’ if you will.
This is where EMPATHY IN LEADERSHIP comes in.
For instance, at the beginning of a meeting with a team member, there is a big difference between starting with ‘How are YOU?’ versus ‘What are you up to?’
To be an effective leader means understanding the individual needs of each member of my team. The key word here is ‘individual.’
The world we live in is full of uncertainty and each person handles that differently. So getting to know each of my employees as individuals and not just as a name or number on a payroll sheet, gives me a better sense of who they are.
This gives me a better understanding of how to lead them, and how to help them thrive.
This feeling of belonging, of shared values, dramatically enhances trust, cooperation, and problem-solving. Which then leads to a positive work environment and guarantees a more successful bottom line.
Sinek points out that we’re built to work together. We are, at a deeply ingrained and biological level, social machines. And when we work to help each other, our bodies reward us for our effort so that we will continue to do it.
So how do you create that ‘Circle of Safety?’
I believe that time is more valuable than money. Everyone wants to make money for their work, and everyone here does. But that’s a dopamine effect.
Satisfying for the moment, but it’s only a shot of ‘feel good’ chemicals as opposed to a deeper and longer-lasting chemical response.
Sinek goes into great detail about the 4 ‘happy’ chemicals in our bodies.
I’ve already mentioned dopamine. But we also create endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin.
It’s the latter two that are important to me as a leader.
Serotonin is what provides us with that feeling of pride and happiness we get when we give ourselves to help others.
Sacrificing my time and energy so that others around me can gain is a driving force for me as a leader.
It’s the difference between doing a walk-a-thon to raise money and awareness versus JUST donating to a cause.
There is a sense of fulfillment that is so gratifying and pushes me to want to do more and work harder.
In concert with that is oxytocin.
Oxytocin is what gives us that feeling of friendship, and deep trust. It’s not an instant gratification feeling like we get from dopamine, or the rush we get from endorphins.
It’s foundation-building and long-lasting.
This brings me back to my point about time versus money.
I take the time to connect with my team. I MAKE the time to check in on how they are doing, both at work, and in their day-to-day lives. I ask about their needs and let them know that I’m here for them.
I want to know where they think I can improve or if they feel their individual needs are or aren’t being met. I don’t ask anything of my team that I don’t also ask of myself.
These are results that I desire for my team experience because of my leadership.
Long-lasting happiness and pride, combined with a deep sense of trust and friendship.
A happy, positive-minded, passionate workforce, means a more productive work environment and that leads to a more successful business in the long run.
This is how I’ve built my own ‘Circle of Safety’ within Business Nitrogen.
And just being awarded one of the Best Companies to Work For In The Nation, I would say that the results speak for themselves!
To your success,