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Leading with empathy and humility

By Chrisanto Q. Dy

School Principal I,

Lubgan ES, Bula South

Today’s school leaders face a great deal of challenges and consider loads of expectation from the school’s internal and external stakeholders. It is true to say, we are surrounded by people from the different corners of the community who are expecting a lot from us. Hence, a leader like me, always strive to perform excellently and maintain the integrity of my leadership journey. But while performing my tasks as a leader, I always ensure that leading with empathy and humility is at the core of my heart:


What do we mean by leading with empathy and humility? In my personal reflection, if we lead with empathy and humility, we are like exemplifying servant leadership. If there is one leader who exemplified the real picture of how to be a good servant leader, who serves with love and humility, that is Jesus Christ, a humble man who never uplift himself to be in the pedestal, rather he chose to obey his Father by serving others with love and humility.


This kind of leadership is what we all need today. Many would say, lead with love. But what does this really mean? It’s all about care and concern for colleagues and subordinates that we are leading. It’s about recognizing individual struggles, contributions and stories to tell and share. As a leader, I believe it is a must to create an environment where every member of the team feels that they belong, valued, appreciated and heard. According to Oprah Winfrey, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about possessing the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives”.


Therefore, we leaders should ensure that our concern for the people whom we are leading is sealed with authenticity and sincerity. Despite the many concerns that we have to attend to, let us always find time to listen to their personal stories and concerns because our mere presence could lighten the burden that they are carrying. We should not forget that we are all just humans, who sometimes experience family and other personal problems.


We also need to listen to their personal views, ideas and opinions. In my years of leading people, I realized that listening is indeed powerful in the workplace. In fact, according to Sheida A. Rad, when you listen actively to your colleagues, you show that you value their thoughts and opinions. This can help build trust and rapport, which are critical for building strong relationships in the workplace. To put it simply, a loving leader has the willingness to listen, has the power to see and understand the fact that all of us are human beings, we are not machines. This for me is empathy. In fact, the words of Simon Sinek says, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge”.


A leader also needs to create and sustain an environment where every member of the team could feel the sense of belongingness and culture of appreciation. A simple way of recognizing individual presence is by giving them a greeting even in the busiest parts of the day. Giving words of congratulations is also a way of recognizing the best effort that our colleagues have done. Simple words like good job, thank you, job well done and congratulations may be short but their meaning convey significant essence to the hearts of our subordinates which further enhance one’s self- esteem and morale.


Humility is another best ingredient of servant leadership. As a leader, I always recognize the fact that I am not perfect. I have my flaws and shortcomings. The American Psychological Association defines humility as characterized by a low focus on the self, an accurate - not over or underestimated - sense of one’s accomplishments and worth, and an acknowledgment of one’s limitations, imperfections, mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and so on. Essentially, humility is the ability to see yourself as you are. You recognize your strengths and successes. But you also understand your weaknesses and limitations.


My imperfections as a school leader are supplemented by the skills and ideas of my colleagues and subordinates. This in fact is an admission, that I don’t have the monopoly of knowledge and skills. I may be the leader of the school, but I still recognize and accept the significant views and opinions of my colleagues subordinates. Dan Reiland said that humble leaders are willing to lift others up; humble leaders inspire trust, authenticity and close teamwork; humble leaders find joy when others succeed; humble leaders don’t always need to be right; humble leaders admit when they are wrong and take responsibility; and humble leaders listen to others well, receive input and are willing to change.


Indeed, considering the beauty of love and humility, we leaders can make a total difference to the personal lives of our people and to the organization we are leading.


Let’s always strive to lead with love and humility.


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