One of the most important traits of a leader is sensitivity to the feelings of the people around them. Sensitivity may come more easily to some, but it’s a skill that anyone can learn, a flexible set of capabilities that can be acquired and improved with practice.
For leaders, managers, bosses—anyone who lead or manages people—sensitivity not only helps them be a better leader, but also provides insight into themselves. Here are some of the ways top leaders develop their sensitivity:
They practice passive activism. Great leaders grant emotional people the dignity of their own processes. They allow the person who is being emotional to define the meaning of what is happening by encouraging them to discuss the issues in practical, human, simple, and direct terms.
They build snowballs. The best leaders give their undivided attention to whomever they’re with. They don’t allow themselves to get distracted by other activities or let their mind wander, because they know their undivided attention will help the conversation grow like a snowball as it unfolds. A snowball conversation is an opportunity to learn someone’s true feelings and motivations.
They leave their judgment at the door. We all have biases and make judgments—that’s only human. But as a leader, listening and learning are more important than expressing your own point of view. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what’s being said, just that you’re willing to keep an open mind.
They don’t make comparisons. Sensitive leaders understand that each person’s experience, strengths, and challenges are unique and can’t be compared to anyone else’s. Being pleasant and courteous to other people is a good way to be respectful of what they’re feeling.
They listen with care. Leaders pay close attention to anyone who’s expressing themselves. If you struggle with careful listening, try summarizing or paraphrasing what the other person is saying. It forces you to pay attention, and gives the other person a chance to confirm that you’ve understood correctly.
They ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to learn more about the perspective of another person. Questions also signal that you value their thoughts and feelings. Being open to whatever the person might have to say is a sign of compassionate communication.
They avoid stock responses. If a person is going through a hard time, try not to say things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “I know exactly how you feel.” Your intentions may be good, but as a leader you have to be smart about what you say and how you say it. Saying that a bad experience may be “a blessing in disguise” is insensitive to the person who is struggling.
They acknowledge the person. It’s important to recognize the person in front of you and not minimize what is going on or being said. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Especially when feelings are sensitive, it’s important to feel acknowledged and understood.
Lead from within: Being sensitive to other people’s feelings can teach you a lot about yourself.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.