We have recently seen firsthand why empathy is critical in leadership. Jacinda Arden’s display of empathy, at various interactions post the horrific Christchurch attack, can be categorised as follows:
- Cognitive: the ability to understand another person’s perspective.
Her recent address at Cashmere High School in Christchurch, where several students were directly impacted by the shooting, reinforced the message that it is OK to grieve. Her language met people (students) where they were at and her words of reassurance were delivered in a way that gave certainty to the students that she understood them.
- Empathic: the ability to sense what another person needs from you.
During the high school address, Arden also provided a contact number of a counselling service for those who may need help (600 people had contacted the service in the 24 hours prior). This offered a practical way to help people, and it gave them what they needed during such times.
Empathy is about letting people know you understand. It is also about caring more about solutions and giving people what they need in that moment.
Empathy makes up a large part of what I teach organisations for their internal service mindset and their external customer mindset. It is a skill that builds social relationships. It is a skill we all have, and as Maya Angelou says, ‘I think we all have empathy, we may not have enough courage to display it’.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand has shown courage and has provided us with a brilliant example of empathy in action.
‘Love Being in Service’