When I think of the words “leader” or “leadership”, part of me wants to roll my eyes at the fluffiness. The terms “manager” and “management” just sounds stronger, more determined and more focused.
When I think of a manager, I think of someone who calls people out on their bullshit. He or she is a numbers person. They get down to business, make the tough decisions, streamline processes, and increase profits. When I think of a leader, the first thing that comes to my mind is people. Leaders are people oriented, while managers are business oriented. A person in a position of leadership needs to excel at both.
But here’s what I think…
People are at the heart of everything we do. Brené Brown says humans are wired to connect with one another. They say the number one reason employees stay at their jobs is because of the friendships they make with coworkers.
The skills of a leader outshine the skills of a manager. Yet, leadership skills seem to be highly underrated.
Leadership is hard to define. And this is coming from someone who has been trained in leadership! There’s talk about “natural born leaders”, and while I think there’s some truth to the thought, I think you need to want to be a leader in order to lead.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart, and there is much, much more to it than what people understand on the surface. When I discuss leadership concepts with people, they agree and may even tell a story that justifies their understanding. But unless they practice what they preach, I have little respect for their opinion. There’s a big difference in thinking and doing, and it’s leaders that differentiate one from the other.
In all that I’ve been reading in Braving the Wilderness, I feel like there’s one thing that has been left out: empathy. But I don’t think it is so much left out as it is actually implied. And I really don’t think that people are as empathetic as they probably think they are.
Definition of empathy
1: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this
Brown talks of her research and says we need to “show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection.”
I was at my cousin’s wedding shower recently. She was so touched by a certain gift that she was brought to tears. I wanted to cry watching her cry. In that moment, I could almost feel exactly what she was feeling. We connected in that moment, and I felt for her. And I wasn’t the only one. Looking around the crowd, you could just tell that others connected with her in that moment too.
But we must understand our own feelings before we can understand the feelings of others, before we can empathize. Brown says that “we must own our pain.” Pain builds character.
Do you ever have those moments when you don’t want people to cheer you up, when you just want to be pissed off? I would say that is good! Feel that anger! Feeling it is the only way you work through it. Working through our emotions is how we understand our feelings. But you know what it takes to own our pain? Courage to be vulnerable.
When we empathize with one another in the collective moments, we connect as humans. And that’s really what life is all about.