Two business people looking at a tablet in an office.

Great Leaders Show Empathy and Perspective

I attended a conference last week* in which the guest speaker, Simon Sinek, said that great leaders must possess two key characteristics: Empathy and Perspective. He went on to say that as a leader you are not in charge but rather you are responsible for those in your charge.

The challenge that he gave us business leaders was to reflect on how Millennials are treated at our companies. You see, Millennials enter the workforce carrying a lot of baggage:

  • Parenting: A high percentage were raised in broken families. They always heard from their parents, how special they were. At school or on the athletic field they received recognition and rewards for just showing up. They now show up in the workplace and realize that they really aren’t so special.
  • Technology: Millennials grew up on technology and many are addicted to their smart phones. They have had unrestricted access to the Internet and social media. They might be tech savvy but can they look a person in the eyes and keep a conversation going? All of their information comes from their phones so they have never learned how to ask another person for help.
  • Impatient: Their world is one of instant gratification. This can lead to credit card debt and job-hopping. Sinek says: They see the top of the mountain but not the climb to get there.
  • Environment: The corporate environment isn’t very accommodating for Millennials because organizations really don’t care much about its people. They want employees to hit the ground running and then hit their numbers. There isn’t much room for a Millennial to say: “I messed up†or “I really don’t understandâ€. Thousands of people get downsized due to a bad quarterly earnings report.

When you consider that by the year 2020 Millennials will make up roughly 46% of the workforce, leaders are facing some big challenges in the coming years. Leaders that show real empathy in the workplace will come along side the Millennials and offer them their support. According to Sinek, good leaders are concerned about the person, not just their output.

Let’s move on to the second quality that Sinek is looking for in a business leader: Perspective.

Tonight the Cubs and Indians will be playing in game 6 of the World Series. If the Cubs don’t get their act together, it could be all over for them and their fans tonight. Baseball is a finite sport. It will end, either tonight or tomorrow night. Business is different; it doesn’t end. It goes on and on. It is infinite.

Good business leaders understand that the game of business continues, that they will win some and lose some. The rules might change, new players enter and leave, but the game continues. It should not be measured by a quarterly loss or by defeating your chief competitor.

Perspective is all about looking into the future and looking inward. Are you getting better as a company, every day, and you headed in the right direction. Or, are you obsessed about your competition?

When it comes to the World Series game tonight, I hope my Cubs can not only frustrate but also beat their opponent! At the end of those 9 innings I just want a win!

* Live2Lead Conference, Oct. 28, 2016, simulcast from Atlanta, GA