What is empathetic leadership?
We witnessed a masterclass last week. And it was delivered in an unusual place – our parliament house.
Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, the leader of the Opposition, was retiring. His colleagues, including the Prime Minister, had assembled to bid him goodbye. And this set the stage brilliantly for what followed. The video clips of the speeches are in the footnotes1,2.
Before we move on, please note that this is not a political post. The aim is to take inspiration from the meeting.
Leadership Lesson 1: Empathetic Leaders show vulnerability.
We know our Prime Minister is a superb orator. And yet, in this speech, he choked up twice. Tears welled in his eyes as he recalled a tragedy where Mr.Azad had displayed empathetic leadership. He wondered how someone could ever fill the big shoes of Mr.Azad.
Mr.Azad recalled events that had made him weep in grief. These included the tragic assassinations of PM Indira Gandhi and her sons, a Tsunami, and a terrorist act in J&K. He wiped away a tear as he remembered this last tragedy.
Both the leaders were comfortable displaying their emotions. We often hide our tears in public for fear of appearing weak. These leaders thought otherwise, And this resulted in their connecting with people all the more.
Leadership Lesson 2: We remember Empathetic Leadership forever!
The Prime Minister recalled Mr.Azad’s pain on seeing the victims of a terrorism incident in his state. Mr.Azad’s immediate and human response to the crisis and putting the nation above everything else were highlighted.
Mr. Azad talked about learning empathetic leadership from former PM Mr.Vajpayee (who belonged to another party). Despite running a coalition government, he removed roadblocks for everyone in the nation’s interest.
When we relate to people intimately, grace descends upon us. And we are inspired to deliver greatness.
Leadership Lesson 3: The power of perspective
Mr.Azad paid a lovely tribute to the Prime Minister. As part of his job, he and the Prime Minister engage in very intense arguments. But they remain good friends and thanked the PM for bringing a personal touch. Indeed, the PM and his party President were the ones who wished him on every occasion.
Our PM’s ability to separate work emotions from personal life is a gift. And one we should all cultivate. The ability to recognize this gift in others is critical for growing great cultures.
Leadership Lesson 4: Praise in Public
And onto my favorite takeaway.
Mr. Azad shared a beautiful tribute to his idols – Gandhi, Nehru, and Maulana Azad. He thanked former PM Indira Gandhi and her son for his entry into politics. Remembering those who inspired us and helped us on our journey helps us stay grounded.
The PM highlighted both Mr. Azad’s values and hobbies. Empathetic Leaders appreciate others holistically. Indeed, this is what turns colleagues into friends.
Leaders shower authentic praise and people are inspired to follow. Celebrating values like empathy, friendship, and perspective helps everyone.
Would you agree?
Banner picture from India Today