I attended a leadership webinar today by General Stan McChrystal. He is top tier; an engaging speaker who has instant credibility successfully leading our troops in the War on Terror. Now retired, he is sharing his philosophy of leadership for the 21st century. He talked about many leadership qualities that are essential to being an effective leader; qualities that will serve our veterans well when they come home and face an ultra-competitive job market. The 4-Star General talked about reliability, adaptability, and teamwork. He said, “Leadership is not born OR made. It is a choice.” He talked about other qualities as well: discipline, physical stature, and commitment. But what did he feel is the most important leadership quality of them all?
He said leaders must have the ability to understand where their people are coming from, be familiar with the jobs they do and the roles they perform, and be able to connect with other people’s emotions. In short, leaders have to CARE. He said leaders have to look “at the edge of where they operate” and put themselves in other people’s shoes and experiences.
There are many important qualities of leadership, but the ability to empathize might just be the most powerful of them all.