By MD, Lulu Rasebotsa
“Empathy allows us to aspire to be the leader we want to be: someone who brings out the best in those we lead by demonstrating listening skills, being present & creating trust in the process.”
In March 2020, during the first wave of the corona virus, I read somewhere about the 7 C’s of leadership during a crisis. Business school Dean, John Quelch of Miami Herbert Business School shared his insights on how he thinks leaders in business, government and the community ought to respond to the crisis. According to him, leaders need to be calm, confident, communicative, collaborate, embrace community, have compassion and finally- to look short term and long term, at the financial decisions made during this crisis; – cash.
As I journeyed on my own path of leadership during these unprecedented times, it undoubtedly became apparent to me that empathy, trust, listening, being present, and collaboration are the personal and corporate values I fight for, to keep close during the pandemic. Allow me to take you to another setting and an entirely different continent, during the same season when Mr. Quelch was sharing his insights in Miami. It was discovered that, on average, the countries with female leaders suffered half as many deaths from COVID-19 than the countries led by their male counterparts. Female Prime Ministers of Norway, Germany, & Finland, compared with their neighboring country leaders, were doing dramatically better in managing the pandemic in May through August of 2020.
A year later, and with the COVID -19 crisis still upon us, I reflect on my journey of leadership within this pandemic through the lens of the values I have adopted within my personal and work structure- the value that seems to stand-out to me the most is empathy, and of course, not to say that the rest are not as important.
I think the findings for Norway, Germany and Finland can be credited to many things, but largely also to the common disposition by female leaders to naturally be able to show empathy, and express a much more democratic and communicative leadership style- while somehow managing to diligently keep a prudent eye on the short-term and long-term financial health of the business. Empathy takes on different forms; for instance, working from home is difficult, and leaders should forewarn their employees if they are going to call them virtually because no one is going to be behind their desk the whole time. When you do not do this, it’s as if you are trying to catch out someone, and it does not build trust.
Again, if you ask me, any leader- male or female is capable of possessing and showing the spirit of empathy. However, this speaks to the nature and manner of how we show it. This is a brag for us women in leadership because it says that we can exude a trait that is not mechanic by nature, but rather emotionally-tuned and fluid, while keeping our pulse on the bottom-line of the businesses we lead because we understand that all of our stakeholders’ livelihoods are dependent on profits. Leading through a crisis is not easy, but there is great power in showing empathy.
It is not a matter of empathy or profits. It’s a time for us to embrace both more than ever before, because there is an obvious calling upon us all to lead people through one of the toughest seasons- emotionally, mentally and with financial vision. So, I call upon all of us to embrace our nature, and to boldly answer the call of leading with our hearts in-tune to the health of the people; affording employees the opportunity of dialogue, offering support structures to their emotional & mental wellbeing, fully understanding that behind the backdrop of what we see, some have much more going on during this pandemic- again, all while somehow managing to stretch enough to meet business targets.
If not us the mothers & female leaders then who? May the Lord strengthen our leadership and give us wisdom as we lead those we have been entrusted with.