Empathy as Embodied in Leadership

By Mark Johnson C. Gil

Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to related to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.

Oprah Winfrey

Leading a team is a very challenging role for any leader, most especially in this era of a more diversified and modern working environment. Maintaining the cohesiveness and communication is very important to be able to understand each and everyone on your team.  Ms. Katherine Alfaro, Quality Management Supervisor, shared some insights on her practices with her team and colleagues and how she highlighted listening as a very powerful tool of communication for her to understand her team’s feelings.

Listening signals respect and a sense of curiosity about what the team has to say.

Kath Alfaro

Communication with the team

We’ve been told, to speak up or forever hold our peace. In our team, everyone is encouraged to speak their minds, especially when given the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas. As a general rule, do not leave the meeting without sharing something. That is how we are being “raised” by Ms. Jas Co. Communication, thus, is important.

Apart from the needed work updates, it is part of our team’s culture to talk to each other, most often during meals. Spending most of the day together in the office, we talk about the wins and challenges we encounter, may it be at work or at home. Mas madali magtrabaho kapag kilala mo yung mga katrabaho mo as persons, hindi lang as officemates. Mas naiintindihan ko yung mga pinanggagalingan ng mga opinyon, diskarte, at paniniwala nila kaya mula rin dun yung way ng pag-manage sa kanila individually.

Relating to someone’s emotional experienced

Empathy means deeply understanding another person’s feelings and situation. What better way to understand them than to listen to their stories, whether in their professional or personal lives.

 We spend time talking about how they are doing; it is hard to miss if something is bothering them. ‘Pag masyado nang tahimik at di nakikipagbiruan, ramdam na baka may pinagdadaanan.’ And when we know that someone is struggling, we work together to make the workload lighter, tulong tulong na to have the work done. We know that when someone’s down, physically man yan or emotionally, affected pati output. Very important para sa’min ang health, lalo na mental health. Work is tiring and challenging at times, dagdag pa kung may mga personal na iniintindi. We keep each other sane by talking and laughing together. And as a team, pakiramdaman at tulungan lang talaga, para at the end of the day, we achieve what we planned to do.

Platforms and opportunities to listen with your team

Formal and informal communications are made within the team. For instance, we did a one-on-one performance discussion early this year. Aside from the grades, we also talked about their goals, challenges, and the support they need. Periodically, we also meet as a section for work updates and coordination.

I also keep my lines open for them – call, SMS, chat- for when they need to talk to me. I was told that leading people is like having kids, aside from my own. They have their own strengths, challenges, working style, motivation, and attitudes that need to be considered when managing and directing them to achieve the team’s goals. Thus, communication and understanding of all these must be consciously and consistently done to make our work life and bond as a team work well. In a diversified and fast pace working environment, knowing how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be able to understand is a very powerful skill that a leader must have. Other leaders may have a different perspective view of empathy and showing understanding. Important is, empathy should be embodied in leadership. 

Mark Johnson C. Gil, Human Resources and Administration. MJ is a certified ailurophile but he’s also fond of any pets and other animals. He loves to travel for foods, adventures, and natures, capturing moments and keeping memories to each destination. He may be an adventurous one, but he’s also a God-fearing person.

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