Theempathic Leader: a new dynamic for school improvement
TheEmpathic Leader: A New Dynamic for School Improvement
Eachand every institution has a customary learning approach that theyconform to. The different learning approaches are either studentcentered or teacher centered approaches. A common learning approachis whereby teachers stand in front of a class and instructs thestudents with information that they considers important in their dayto day life. Despite the approach used in institution, effectiverunning of the institution is a major contributor to the successstory of the institution. The people in leadership positions in everyinstitution are key determiners of how the institution will be run.Therefore, an institution with competent leaders is more likely to berun effectively. Thus, the role of leaders in an institution cannotbe underestimated. Leaders in a school setting are the curriculumheads, departmental heads, technical experts and practitioners invarious classrooms. These leaders face very complex and bureaucraticscenarios in the institutions thus their flexibility and adaptabilityto the said institutions is compromised. In addition, they facestudents with different mix of variables as generations change(Coplan & Goldie, 201142). In order to keep pace with thechanging world, there is need to address the language of leadershipand ensure that the leadership adopted by institution responds to theever changing needs of the institution.
Effectiveleadership begins with self- awareness and self- believe. A leader isable to incorporate the maturity of thoughts, conviction andexpertise that translates to purpose and clear direction (Kellett etal, 2006 147). Leaders trust their instincts thus they are able tohandle every challenging scenario, leading their teams to theachievement of the institutions vision. Leaders can be able to dealwith change and ensure growth capabilities, analyze and mitigateimpending risks and considerably demonstrate problem solvingtechniques. Similarly, leaders should demonstrate a high level ofcommitment to institutional goals.A committed leader will be ableto influence the activities of the individual team members intoachievement of a common goal (Kellett et al, 2006 152). The teammembers will feel the need to put extra efforts in their specificroles in order to achieve their individual goals. This is most likelyto happen if the leader is committed and starts mobilizing for teamcommitment early enough thereby leading by example. Also, involvingall stakeholders from the beginning in the processes of goal settingand roles distribution is key to success.
Inaddition, effective leaders are authentic. They have high levels ofintegrity, honesty, expertise, clarity and confidence. This enablesthem to win trust from their subordinates coupled with totaldedication. The leader’s dedication to the values that areexhibited by their own behavior is significant in reinforcing thesubordinate’s behavior (Bass, 1985 63). High level of trust fromthe subordinates minimizes the risk exposure of a particularorganization. Leaders also need to be competent in their work. Agood leader should have the required qualification to hold the titlein order to achieve both the tough and demanding goals that he setfor the institution and those that are set by the Institution. Highlevel of competence will build confidence in the leader andconsequently build the self-esteem of their subordinates. Thisenables the leader to influence the Institution both internally andexternally thereby gaining the approval of everyone involved inmaking the idea a reality.
Lastly,a true leader should be emphatic. Whereas there are varyingdefinitions of Empathy, the most common definition regards empathy asthe ability to identify and understand another person’s situations,feelings and motives (Decety, 201213). Empathy entails “seeingthings in another person’s eyes”or rather “puttingyourself in another person’s shoes”(Morrell, 20109). Indeed, empathy is a valued attribute to allorganizations. It allows the leaders to create a culture of trust. Iteliminates first hand judgment as the leader will first seek tounderstand the subjects’ feelings and the reasons for emanatingcertain reactions to particular situations. This also motivates thesubjects as they do not feel judged by their leaders. UsingEmpathetic intuitions, the leaders can be able to better understandtheir subordinates, to intuit their thoughts and feelings, toanticipate their behavior and thus act accordingly (George,20001029).
Accordingto Brene Brown, empathy consists of four aspects. First is theperspective aspect which is defined as the ability to understandsomeone else’s perspective. The second aspect involves staying outof the judgment aspect. One should be able to stay out of judgmentand avoid giving harsh comments on someone else’s woes ormisfortunes. Third, recognizing emotions in other people’s aspectis defined as the ability to perceive how other people are feelingabout a particular situation. Lastly, there is the communicationaspect. This is whereby a leader is able to let his or her subjectsknow that he acknowledges what they are going through. Thecommunication aspect centers on the ability to ask open- endedquestions, listening attentively and managing responses. Thistriggers more collaborative relationships with the subordinates. Theabove attributes enables a leader to discern how his leadershipstrategies impacts other people. An emphatic leader is moreapproachable and is able to create a strong team culture which is anecessary elements for the success of any institution.
Inorder to understand the role of empathy, it is important tounderstand the relationship between Empathy and emotionalIntelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability has become knownover the years and its important contribution to success of anybusiness cannot be underestimated. Emotional Intelligence is ameasure of the extent to which an individual is able to manage hisemotions and those of others. (George, 2000 1046) Leaders areexpected to be able to manage their emotions and the feelings ofothers and convert them to constructive use. The leaders who haveperfected the art of managing such emotion are said to be in a betterposition to deal with both sentimental and intimate relationshipssituation that normally do not have written rules in theorganization. Inability to deal with emotions may lead to sabotagewhereby leaders concentrate more on internal issues or work relatedfights instead of focusing on their productivity. Therefore,emotional intelligence is normally found in people with strongability to understand their own behavior and the behavior of others,people who are able to see things from another person’sPerspective. (Lichtenberg, 1984 53) This means that emotionalintelligence is strongly displayed by empathic leaders.
Empathicleaders are very important in every institution as they are able todirect the organization to successful ventures through their strongemotional intelligence. To start with, the empathic ability isimportant in harnessing the leader’s relationship with hissubordinates thus leading to free flow of communication in theinstitution. The leader’s empathy is an important tool thatimproves the mood of the subordinates. Understanding thesubordinates, feelings help the leader to anticipate the expectedbehavioral reaction from the subordinates thereby enabling him tostrategize on the correct approach to address such a subordinatewithout making the situation worse but using it to obtain aconstructive feedback from the subordinate. Empathetic leadershiptherefore, increases the people’s capacity for compassion andempathy.
Similarly,empathetic ability goes hand in hand with the expectation that theleaders are charged with the responsibility of instilling positivefeelings to the people that they lead and promoting positiverelationships. By being empathic, the leader generates resonancefrom his people by focusing on the positive elements thereby bringingout the best from his subordinates. Research has shown that thebehavior and emotions of the leaders have a direct impact on thesubjects. A leader who directs his power to inspire and motivate hisfollowers is able to derive confidence, optimism and passion from hissubordinates.
Leaderswho frequently demonstrate empathy are connected to their inner self.They are able to possess a high degree of self- knowledge whichentails the ability to detect and manage one’s own emotion. Aleader cannot be able to manage the emotions of others if he is notaware of his own emotions and if the leader’s emotions get out ofcontrol he may respond inappropriately to his subjects withoutnoticing. This may be in form of raised voice or extreme actions to aminor issue that may cause negative reactions within the group. Bymanaging emotions, a leader is able to create a common bond wherepeople have a universal understanding, shared ideas and makedecisions together. This generates harmony that boosts the success ofthe organization and decreases the possibility of viral negativeemotions and behavior.
Empathyalso enables leaders to lead people from different geographical andcultural setting.( Krznaric, 201466) Such people portray varyingreligious and cultural believes and may react to situations that doesnot lease them or does not abide to their norms adversely. TheEmpathetic leaders possess great interpersonal skills and, therefore,recognizes the background of his subordinates which determines hisapproach. By doing so, the empathetic leader counteracts the negativeeffects of judgment and bias since the subordinates do not feeljudged because of their social or cultural differences and thereforeworks in harmony with other team members. Empathy is therefore animportant tool for leaders who lead people across geographic andcultural borders.(Krznaric, 201472)
Thebusiness world has therefore acknowledged the importance of empathyin the business world. Learning from the business world, change isrequired in the education sector, whereby the institutions willintegrate a system of education that will provide the cognitive andemotional tools needed by students to be able to cope in the currentdynamic environment. Daniel and Peter in their book, the Triplefocus, suggests that the current approach of learning which is systembased should be integrated with the social emotional learningapproach. In the social emotional learning approach, the students areequipped with knowledge and skills that will enable them to managetheir emotions. For the approach to deliver best results, studentsshould be able to learn from the school leaders, curriculum heads,the administrative staff and the entire community. They should beable to feel valued and respected. The effort to adopt new educationapproach has been faced with many challenges including thedifficulties of breaking from the traditional rigid curriculaguidelines and expert teachers who impart knowledge on the students.Research has found the method more effective and the educators aremuch aware of the contents, but the concepts have not been adoptedsince most school cultures inhibit them from building suchcapacities.
Empathyshould therefore be taught in schools as the research has shown thatschools that have adopted empathy have improved in their test scores.This can be due to the fact that Empathy helps the students to dealwith some common distracters such as stress (Goleman, 2006 83).Stress is very detrimental to the students’ performance. Byteaching the students attributes of empathy, they are able to managetheir emotions in such a way that their emotions do not affect theirstudies. Also, students who have suffered distress in the past isable to manage such feelings and move on with their studies. Empathyhelp the students to be more confident improving their participationin classrooms, it helps students deal with people making more friendsand coping with setbacks.
TeachingEmpathy in schools therefore, help students develop the followingempathetic attributes which complement their performance in schoolsand in the outside world (Shaprio, 2002 324). To start with, empathyhelps students develop strong listening skills. Indeed, empatheticpeople are able to listen attentively without distractions as theirmain focus is the person that is talking to them. They do morelistening than talking since they focus on understanding thesituation from the teller’s perspective. Attentive listening makesothers feel recognized and heard. Listening by itself is not enoughto establish an empathetic bond, there is need for the empatheticpeople to display a high level of vulnerability during theconversations (George, 2000 1049). Whether it’s a leaderconversing with the subordinates, he should uncover himself and sharehis experiences with the subordinate. This will create a mutualunderstanding between the two and thus creating a mutual empatheticbond based on trust and confidence. Studies shows that this approachwas effectively used to promote peace among the Israel –Palestinian families who were divided by their political interests.The peace building movement brought together families from both sideswho were affected by the conflicts to share their pain and grievanceswith each other. The families were able to realize that despite theirdifferent political orientations, all shared the same pain and blood.
Empathyalso teaches students to be non-judgmental. They attempt tounderstand the situation in the other person’s perception withoutpassing judgment whether the feelings are right or wrong. Empathydoes not necessarily mean agreeing with how others perceive thingsbut it generally means that one is able to appreciate what the otheris going through (Goleman, 200624). Empathetic people constantlychallenge prejudices and discover commonalities. This will help thestudents to always look for what they share in common with otherpeople of different cultural and social orientation instead of whatdivides them thus promoting harmony among the children cum students.Empathy has been identified as a powerful tool to deal with racialtensions in American schools thereby creating viable learningenvirons.
Similarly,the students develop emotional intelligence. They are able toacknowledge their emotions and manage them in a way that thoseemotions do not influence the outcome of their decisions (Shaprio,2002325). By learning the art of managing their own emotions,students will be able to concentrate in other people’s emotion thusguarding their responses to other people. They will seek tounderstand the other person’s emotions or perspective beforejudging them. Empathy challenges people to try another person’slife literally, in order to understand their view. This impliesputting into practice the Native American proverb that prompts peopleto “walk a mile in another man’s shoes before criticizing them.”Empathy does not only make them good, but it’s also good for themas it prompts the students to seek education through experiences.
Inaddition, empathy is known to have inspired positive mass action andsocial change. By putting empathy in practice, the social movementswere able to abolish slavery in 18thand the 19thcenturies, Studies shows that the movements invested their hopes onhuman empathy to make people conceptualize the main sufferings andpain under slavery (Krznaric,2014 53). In the same thought, theestablishment of the international trade union movements was done byindustrial workers who used empathy to share their exploitations.Empathy is therefore one of the intangible traits that should beplanted in all children (Shaprio, 2002 327).
Empathycultivates curiosity in the students mind. The curiosity will enablethe students to talk to people outside their social circle. In thecurrent digital setting, such curiosity is required to maintain humanrelations, Many are times when people more so students are so preoccupied with social media that they are always on their phonescharting with people whom they rarely interact. This is slowlykilling the normal human interactions and conversations. Suchcuriosity will help children to talk to the person sitting next tothem in a bus. Indeed, curiosity is beneficial to our daily life.Physicians have established such curiosity as a mode for dealing withchronic loneliness which affects one in every three Americans(Eynolds, 2012 77). They therefore challenge people to at least talkto one stranger in a day, a characteristics that comes out naturallyin empathetic leaders.
Highlyempathetic people tend to have strong and ambitious imaginations. Inthe current era of rapid technological changes and innovations,incorporating empathy in the businesses will play a major role inensuring the business survival against the drastic changes. Despitepromoting teamwork and leadership in organizations, the empatheticworkers will be equipped with traits such as strong listeningcapabilities that will facilitate gathering of useful informationfrom the consumers that will enable the company to direct itsinnovations toward addressing their clients’ needs. Similarly,empathetic employees’ builds up successful teams coupled withstrong and ambitious imaginations thus the output will be efficientinnovations and timely response to the drastic changes in technologythereby keeping the organization in business. Empathy shouldtherefore be encouraged as a useful trait to be adopted by everyoneincluding children and current leaders. Both should be able to notonly go through a process of self- reflection and self- discovery butalso develop interest in the life of others. This will act as thebasis of radical revolutions based on human relationships in future.
Mostschools in Washington DC has adopted empathy in their curriculumespecially after President Obama gave a speech on the importance ofaddressing the nation’s empathy deficit. This is demonstrated bythe introduction of Canadian’s Roots of Empathy a program aimed atteaching empathy to school going Children. This curriculum helpschildren to learn Emotional intelligence. Studies shows that theintroduction of the Empathy curriculum to schools has led to adrastic decline in juvenile cases, playground bullying and hasconsequently improved performance. It has also facilitateddevelopmental maturity in children as it addresses the cognitive,social and moral development needs. The Roots of Empathy has alsobeen adopted in Washington DC and has shown a great improvement inChildren’s self- esteem as they study empathy. Learning empathy hasa great impact on the children, teachers and also the parents.
Empathyis an important trait to both the children and leaders all over theworld. Although some people naturally express empathy in their dailylives, it is not a fixed trained and can therefore be learnt throughcoaching or training. People who experience difficulties inexpressing empathy can therefore sign up in schools or institutionsoffering empathy training or take advantages of developmentalopportunities and initiatives offered in their place of work. Empathygreatly contributes to improved performance in the work place as wellas in the schools. The empathy curriculum should therefore beintroduced at all levels of education to ensure that the empathydeficit is completely addressed. Organizations also should establishstrategies aimed at improving their employees’ empathy skills fromthe managers to the subordinates. A comprehensive strategy ofensuring that people acquire empathy skills may entail the followingactions. First, talking about empathy will let people know of itsimportance. Also teaching the skills and attributes of empathy willgo a long way in helping them learn the skills. This may entailteaching listening and communication skills to people at all levelsof education. Also, establishing tasks and projects that addressempathy will help them put the skills in practice. Similarly,awarding acts of compassion will make people internalize the empathyskills. The various institutions should devise ways of awardingpeople who have shown genuine concerns for others or those who havegone out of their way to help others. This will facilitate thecultivation of culture based on empathy. Establish problem solvingskills to help in conflict resolution whereby the students will berequired to describe the situation, detailing the reasons why ithappened, how their action made others feel, the way forward(Shaprio, 2002 326). They should also be instructed on how toaddress such situations if they happen again in future in order toavoid a repeat of the same.
Inconclusion, the ability to see the world in someone else’s eyes,understanding other people’s feelings clearly contributes toeffective performance in the institutions. Development of emotionalintelligence helps people to manage their emotions thereby seeking tounderstand other people’s perspective before indulging into action.This has led to less judgmental solutions being arrived at which inturn has contributed to improved self-esteem and confidence among thesubjects as they feel freer to err, since they will not be judged.Instead, they will be guided to the right approach. Similarly, it hasled to decrease in juvenile cases and racism conflict among theAmerican schools. Empathy has also contributed to harmony in learninginstitutions and organizations by addressing ways of personalinteractions without paying much focus to religious, social andcultural differences. It has brought about scenario where everyonefeel much appreciated and understood thereby building trust aningredient that fosters positive performance, increased collaborationand consequently improved productivity.
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