Where would you rate your leadership ability on a scale of 1-10? Where would those closest to you rate you? I would venture to say that if you are leading people you have a tendency to see things as better than they are. I was making a list of my strongest and weakest leadership qualities, and although I consider myself a humble person, it was strangely difficult for me to look at the weakest qualities. However, when I asked my family to help with this they had no trouble at all rattling off the weak parts. A few I agreed with, such as impatience, my tendency for tunnel vision (not looking at the big picture), and the difficulty I have had with visualization. It was interesting to me however that one of the areas I consider my strengths, empathy, was what they saw as my weakness.
I consider empathy one of my biggest strengths. It helps me to turn myself around and attempt to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I look at is as if I am adjusting my eyesight to their prescription of glasses. I look at behaviors that would hurt or trigger me and imagine what could be motivating someone to cut me off on the freeway, write a bad review, quit with no notice, do something unethical, be unkind…and choose to believe they are coming from a place of pain. I choose not to judge. This is an ongoing process, as you can imagine, since I continue to get tested in this (most often by those closest to me).
Can this be a weakness? Apparently so. It is a weakness when it falls too far to the left into the area of enabling or complacency. Its a weakness when I don’t want to let someone fall down, fail, experience pain or feel the discomfort of their choices. It is a weakness when I let the lower energies that other people are operating at bring me down. It is a weakness when I let it stop me from making the tough decisions leaders have to make.
I still think that empathy is my superpower, and it’s in my DNA. I also know there is a spectrum. As long as I watch the slide left and right on the scale and remember that pain and discomfort, failures and falls are our greatest teachers then empathy can remain a strength. It only becomes a weakness when I dip into fear.