For many businesses, objectivity and tough-mindedness are the nuts and bolts of leadership. Empathy — the ability to manage through emotional intelligence — is seen as softer and therefore undesirable. Yet the idea that a leader can sit in the corner office and bark orders is long gone. Leaders who have taken the time to cultivate meaningful connections with people have a far greater chance of rallying the troops, increasing morale and boosting productivity.
Feeling-oriented personality types already score highly on assessments for empathy, though they may have no idea why. Here’s how a feeling leader can identify and develop their talents in the workplace.
First, Know Yourself
Both self-awareness and the awareness of others lay the foundation for more empathetic (and thus more productive) working relationships. Before a feeling leader can embrace their potential, they must acquire a deep understanding of their own strengths and blind spots. They may also require specific training to help them communicate with others who may have personality preferences quite different from their own.
Developing self-awareness means possessing the maturity to listen to feedback, good and bad, without getting defensive, and using it to do things better next time. Some feeling-oriented leaders can handle this type of criticism better than others, however. Psychometric personality assessments are a good launch pad for this kind of self-exploration. By providing an analysis of the various aspects of personality (as well as empathy) that play into leadership style and ability, testing can help feeling leaders get a better sense of how they can utilize their talents to magnify the capabilities of the team.
Teach Listening Skills
Empathetic people listen attentively to what people are telling them. They focus on the person in front of them entirely and do not get easily distracted from what is being said. They do this because they want to understand the difficulties the other person is facing, all of which helps to give that person the feeling of being valued and understood.
Feeling leaders can improve working relationships by encouraging listening behaviors across the organization. When everyone is actively listening to each other, people feel respected and trust can grow. Specific listening skills include:
- Giving everyone a voice
- Paying attention to what other people are saying
- Asking questions to clarify the speaker’s comments
- Acknowledging other points of view
- Taking into account the personal experience or perspective of others in problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution
Exercise Democratic Leadership
Feeling leaders typically have no interest in exercising power over others. Instead, they prefer a more democratic approach to decision-making where ideas flow freely and are openly discussed among the group. For an egalitarian style of leadership to be effective, the feeling leader should:
- Keep lines of communication open so that everyone has a forum for putting their ideas forward.
- Respect all ideas, even the ones that are unworkable. If opinions are rebuked, the flow of ideas will slow to a trickle.
- Encourage people to find their own solutions to problems.
- Keep the work environment blame and panic free. Feeling leaders often possess the ability to remain supportive of the team even when frustrations are mounting.
- Communicate the reasons for any decisions that are made. It is important that people feel that their thoughts were valued, even if the decision ultimately had to go in a different direction.
- Exercising a democratic style of leadership encourages employees to think critically and find their own ways of adding value to the organization. Workers typically feel more motivated, nurtured and happy, which is then reflected in their output.
Get Comfortable with Boundaries
Setting limits is a tough task for most feeling-oriented personality types. They want to give people every chance to shine, and they fear that confrontation may cause someone to experience unnecessary pain. However, feeling leaders who are too nice may sabotage their own effectiveness as a leader. Team members who think they can get away with murder will do precisely that unless clear boundaries are established.
The key is finding a balance. Feeling leaders are most effective when they are given the freedom to break down rigid hierarchies and become “one of the guys.” It is certainly possible to be friendly, warm and collegiate on a daily basis, but the feeling leader must also be willing to confront problem situations. Utilizing other strengths (logic, analysis, a desire for closure) can help the feeling leader to determine when it is appropriate to bend and when they should draw the line.
Being a strong and empathic leader requires candor, a daily commitment to collaboration and the ability to emphasize the relationships between people. It also requires a measure of distance, so that people do not take advantage of the feeling leader’s approachability. Get the balance right, and the feeling leader will have unwavering commitment and respect from their team.