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Tim Arnold: The Power of Active Empathy in Effective Leadership

Tim Arnold: The Power of Active Empathy in Effective Leadership

In an age marked by increasing polarization and disconnection, the need for leaders who can skillfully navigate differences and find common ground has never been more important.

These “uncommon sense” leaders embrace “both/and” thinking in an “either/or” world. They have the rare ability to find authentic connections with individuals whose perspectives and beliefs are different from their own. They set themselves apart by constructing bridges of connection instead of contributing to the walls of separation.

Building Bridges of Connection

Empathy, the ability to understand others’ perspectives, is essential for building meaningful connections. Renowned empathy expert Lee Hartley Carter encourages leaders to go even further and develop something she refers to as “active empathy,” a rare form of the skill involving an understanding of others’ values and fears, even when we strongly disagree with them.

Whether discussing political differences, disagreeing on a potential workplace change, or engaging in debates on social issues, three common assumptions limit our ability to have active empathy with those who hold different viewpoints and biases:

  • We assume they are less informed or intelligent than we are.
  • We assume they care less about the situation than we do.
  • We assume they are not as “good” as we are, morally or ethically.

To find common ground, we must challenge these assumptions by adopting a courageous new perspective:

  • Assume that they possess wisdom to share with us.
  • Assume that they care about the situation as much as or more than we do.
  • Assume that they are every bit as “good” as we are.

Flipping the script on these assumptions unleashes the power of active empathy, allowing us to become connectors. By doing so, we shed the blinders created by overemphasizing differences, opening our minds to recognize the good in all people and the wisdom within diverse opinions. Understanding doesn’t require agreement; and even in our differences, we will always share common values. It just might take a bit of extra work and courage on our part to discover them.

Leading in a Polarized World

In a world yearning for connection and understanding, the ability to transform assumptions and actively empathize shines as a ray of hope. As uncommon sense leaders, we have the opportunity to challenge the status quo, stand out from the crowd, and contribute to a more connected and compassionate society — one empathetic interaction at a time.

Tim Arnold has spent over two decades helping leaders better manage complexity, increase resilience, and deliver results. His work focuses on helping leaders unleash the superpower of “both/and” thinking in an “either/or” world.

Contact us to learn more about Tim and how he helps audiences, leaders, and their teams understand and breakthrough the chronic issues they face in both their professional and personal lives.