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You Cannot Develop Leaders Without Their Team's Input

Leading with empathy starts with asking questions. It starts with the leader (here I would like to address CEOs and the big decision-makers out there with their big title whoever they are) sitting down and asking some serious questions about their workforce. 


We are so quick to shout, "Put yourself in the shoes of others". Ok, how do we do that when we are in the CEO role or the owner of the company? Leading with empathy is not about offering a shoulder to cry on. Those are the worst leaders if you ask me. We don't need crying, we need clarity. 


So here are the questions senior leaders should be asking themselves (putting themselves in the shoes of their employees) and these should really be included in annual appraisal data and used for the development of the leaders and the organisation. 


  • How do my employees feel about the company culture? Is it toxic, relaxed, organised, structured, disciplined, chaotic, competent or incompetent? How would they describe it?

  • Do my employees like working here? If yes, why? If they don't why not?

  • Does the culture allow them to perform at their best?

  • Do they trust the leadership? Do they trust them to make the best decision for the business and carve out the direction forward? 

  • Do they feel respected and valued in terms of their contribution?

  • Are they having a good time under my leadership?


Sometimes I do this exercise with leaders and the level of oblivion and delusion is staggering that's why I say this should be part of their development program instead of just sending them off to a "Leading with Empathy" workshop. 


Most of the time leaders either cannot answer the questions or they are so far away from what their employees think, feel, or say. Why? Because they are scared to ask those questions. They are scared of what they are going to find. Imagine your people telling you "We are not having a great time under your leadership." The moment they say that it means work on yourself and that's hard. 


So we don't ask. Instead, we ask useless engagement survey questions that are generic, we cannot even guess where the problems may lie. Leading with empathy starts with trying to answer some tough questions on behalf of my employees then asking them and comparing notes. 


If you are far off from what they said you are either not leading with empathy or don't care about your employees. Either way, you are hurting the business and should not be there. 


CAN WE PLEASE, start designing leaders', managers' and supervisors' professional & personal development based on the feedback of their employees? Employees' success depends on them and their success depends on their employees. How does it make sense that we completely leave employees' feedback out of their development and instead, align their training plans with random competencies designed by Debbie in head office who never met that person? 


Development plans of supervisors and above should have two parts. I have done this and it works! One is skill and knowledge-based which helps the person do better (achieve business goals) in terms of their specific role. The second part is supervising, managing, and leading people which can only come from the people they serve and not from random training courses.


First, we need to find out what needs addressing, if any, and then find the right course. 

Same when you visit the doctor, first diagnose then prescribe. Rather simple. So if you want to put your leadership team through a "How to lead with empathy" maybe it would be wise to establish their current level of leading. This will also serve as your baseline for ROI. 


PS: Most problems lie between the leaders and their team members let's focus on this and ask leaders how they would like to solve that. Let's involve them in their development. My side note: Leaders who say "I don't need a development program/course/workshop" etc. just fire them on the spot. 



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