The Importance of Empathy, Gratitude and Generosity for (New) Leaders

Seven Surprises for New CEOs
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

The Importance of Empathy, Gratitude and Generosity for (New) Leaders

🔥NEW New leaders encounter challenges as they move up the ladder, a disturbing one of which is so called the 'power paradox'. When people start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, the selected traits and actions that made them leaders, begin to fade in a surprisingly quick manner. Moreover, studies show that people in positions of corporate power are much more likely to in engage in self-serving, unethical, or inappropriate behaviours than those at the lower rungs of the ladder.

The abuse of power ultimately erodes the reputations of leaders, undermining their opportunities of influence others. It also creates anxiety and grudges among employees, diminishing group creativity and team spirit and impacting team member's performance as well. So what leaders can do to outsmart the 'power paradox'? Through awareness and action.

Developing greater self-awareness on the feelings that accompany your newfound power and any behavioural changes. Studies find that simple reflections on those emotions and actions can help people hold back their worst impulses. A few-minute meditation in a quiet and comfortable place on daily basis gives people greater focus and clam.

Practicing repeatedly the virtuous behaviours that made you a leader. Empathy, gratitude, and generosity are essential practices of graciousness, which sustain benevolent leadership even in the most cutthroat environments. Expressions of them yield positive results, allowing leaders to be more respected and influential while their employees more engaged and productive. Leaders can cultivate their capacity for the three essentials by engaging in simple social behaviours whenever possible.

  • Empathy. Ask right questions in every interaction, and paraphrase key points that others make. Listen with appropriate body posture and eye contacts. Also avoid rush into judgement and advice when someone comes to you with a problem.

  • Gratitude. Make appreciation as a part of your communication with others,whether in e-mails, notes, or verbal. Acknowledge the value each individual contributes to your work publicly.

  • Generosity. Have informal one-on-one meetings. Delegates some important and high-profile tasks to your employees for them to grow with you and the organization.
By practicing the ethics of empathy, gratitude, and generosity, leaders are able to outsmart the 'power paradox' and encourage the best work and team spirit of those around them.

Source: Keltner, D. (2016). Don't Let Power Corrupt You: How to Rise to the Top Without Losing the Virtues that Got You There. Harvard Business Review, 94(October), 112-115.


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Don't Let Power Corrupt you (2)

In an article with almost the same title, Professo...


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