Empathy , a Winning Factor

A legendary statement  ‘Let them have cakes’ instigates a revolution , is a classic example of a situation of what hapens when the top management looses the sight of the following levels. The power of empathy brings peers along, but becomes a deciding factor for a leader ‘s sustainablity.

A recent research at Kellogg school of management by Adam Galinsky (Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management) and his co-authors Joe Magee (Assistant Professor of Management at New York University), M. Ena Inesi (Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the London Business School), and Deborah H. Gruenfeld (Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at Stanford University) , shares the emphasis of Empathy as a winning factor in Leadership. They did this research and found how the attainment of power affects any human being. In their study they shared how individuals who were primed with more power responded to the tests compared to the ones who were primed with lower power. The findings showed that High power individual relied on their own abilities and could not identify with others perspective compared to the Low – powered ones. In an experiment where the High powered indivuals were asked to identify the emotions from various pictures, they made far more mistakes than the low powered ones. This was followed by many more tests that confirm the fact that when an individual rises to the top or become powerful in its position they are likely to get blinded about their followers’ views and their needs.

The research studies suggest that if the leaders are made more responsible for their followers they would then remain empathetic and stay close to the ground realities. The metaphor used in the result was that of driving a car. Power enables a person to pull the brakes, but if the accelerator is not released, the car wouldn’t move ahead. Hence, a leader requires both the stirring wheel and the brake to drive ahead successfully. Here we share an example of Ratan Tata’s participative management. In taking business ideas ahead, he takes suggestion from contributors across all the levels in the organization. The credibility to listen and follow through the idea creates a greater trust between the leader and his followers. Thus becomes one of the winning factors to the leader’s success.

Though this can be contradicted that leaders often have to take few futuristic decisions which might not be accepted by the followers. Furthermore a leader may not always have the luxary to explain every action in order to build the faith . But then it finally boils down to how much the leader can  feel for the followers , connect with their view points and bring them along