Softening the Edge: Empathy: how humanity's oldest leadership trait is changing our world - Business Leader News

Softening the Edge: Empathy: how humanity’s oldest leadership trait is changing our world

“We need Mimi’s voice. Her passion can change the future of work and close the empathy gap that affects our world.” – Laurie Ruettimann, author of Betting On You & host of Punk Rock HR

Mimi Nicklin, author of Softening the Edge, is the Chief Executive of global ad agency Freedm and host of MimiYouYou podcast. As an experienced marketer and communications specialist, Nicklin authorises her years of experience into a summarised account of how to lead for success.

Connecting genuinely on a human level isn’t just pivotal for business success; it holds the potential to reshape our global landscape. This book promises both inspiration and thought-provoking insights, guiding you to leverage your emotional intelligence effectively in building profound connections and influence. Softening the Edge is a blueprint for adapting and enhancing your business approach, ensuring its relevance in the future.

Here is an excerpt from Softening the Edge: Empathy: how humanity’s oldest leadership trait is changing our world by Mimi Nicklin.

For many months I asked myself every day, do I expose my heart?

My teams would tell you that I am heart-driven, but it took many many years for me to get comfortable with the concept of baring my heart. Finding the confidence to use it as a strength openly was the hardest role I ever took on. It can be an incredibly scary thing to do, and demands always-on endurance, composure, and diligence. Anyone who thinks doing so is using a ‘soft’ skill has clearly never tried it.

Leading with heart is the move from leading with only your rational business intelligence to leading with emotional intelligence and intuition. It requires a balance of our analytical intelligence and emotional intelligence. As leaders, we can look at sets of data and spreadsheets for days, but we risk missing out on the bigger picture, the intuitive understanding of our businesses, if we are looking for rational insight alone. Leading with heart is not a soft skill saved for yogic retreats or the education industry.

Contrary to some opinion, no empathetic leader could ever be defined as a ‘pushover’ or too ‘gentle’ because the energy, fortitude, and grit that you have to preserve (often behind the scenes) to be this kind of leader is monumental. It is a Regenerative Leadership commitment that sees you practising with a truly conscious focus on the potential and well-being of your people, and it is far tougher to lead with heart than it is to do the opposite.

As the CEO of Microsoft and Financial Times Person of the Year 2019, Satya Nadella, states: “Now the challenge, is that you can’t just say ‘I’ll go to work and turn on my empathy.’ I’m not claiming that empathy is innate, it is something that needs to be developed.”

An empathetic leader is not always someone who leads with heart, however someone who can bring empathy and leadership into coexistence, whilst mastering anger, disappointment, and impatience, to be able to continually create a culture where people feel valued, cared for, and encouraged to perform will find that a heart-led approach comes more easily. These leaders commit to aligning people’s well-being and needs with business decision-making on an ongoing basis, and this adds an unimaginable amount of pressure to that leader.

It can occasionally slow things down, complicate scenarios, and open up your business to the ever-messy journey of the human spirit, but without it we are continually fuelling the emotional and connectivity deficit, the Empathy Deficit, behind so many of our wider social and personal issues. Heart-led leadership is a commitment that, when all is said and done, should come with all leadership roles to some extent, whatever type of leader you see yourself to be.

After all, you get paid to carry this pressure, to work out how to trust your instinct over insight, and to put empathy ahead of Excel for the benefit of the entire organisation and its people. That is why you have the job and someone else doesn’t.

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