The Signs of a Leader’s Empathy Deficit Disorder
“The relationship between power and focus shows up starkly in interactions as simple as two strangers meeting for the first time. In just five minutes of conversation, the person of higher social status generally gives fewer indicators of attention, like eye contact and nods than does the one who holds less social power. This attention gap has even surfaced even among college students from wealthier and poorer families. …
When attention flows along power lines, empathy also takes a hit. When strangers told each other about divorces or other painful moments in their lives, there was more empathy expressed by the less powerful person. Another measure of empathy – the accuracy with which we can tell a person’s feelings from clues like facial expression – also turns out to differ, with lower status people more skilled than those of higher positions.
This fact of social life poses a danger for leaders – after all, the most effective leaders are outstanding at abilities that build on empathy, like persuasion and influence, motivating and listening, teamwork and collaboration.
There are three kinds of empathy. First, cognitive, where you sense how the other person thinks about the world, which means you can put what you have to say in terms they will understand. Second, emotional, where you instantly resonate with how the person feels. And third, empathic concern, where you express the ways you care about the person by helping with what you sense they need.”