Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When undertaking change the second step is to form a guiding coalition which includes people who are not in favor of the change. This guiding coalition will therefore be able to craft a plan that is amicable to both those pushing for change and those who are part of the status quo. This strategy (from Harvard professor John Kotter), is supported in a new book by noted presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Studying presidential history, she found the best presidential leaders had people who disagreed with them on their Cabinets, which gave the president a fuller perspective.
Doris Kearns Goodwin: Empathy Makes For Great Leadership
by John Baldoni, Forbes Magazine, 3/15/19.
In discussing her new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin has said that empathy is one of, if the not the best, attribute for leaders. Goodwin, a noted presidential historian, defines empathy as an ability to understand another’s point of view. That definition is correct as far as it goes, but when you dive more deeply empathy as defined by the psychological community is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another.
…When a leader can see beyond his own point of view, she demonstrates a more rounded worldview. Such leaders know that their opinion is not the only opinion. Empathetic leaders seek out alternate views. They push their staffs not to respond in the affirmative, but to be open to debate on critical issues.
So how can a leader demonstrate empathy?
Think of yourself as part of the community, not THE entire community. The leaders Kearns profiles were self-absorbed. They understood that people opposed them. None more than Abraham Lincoln. Not only did he govern when the nation was split, but he also peopled his Cabinet with individuals who opposed him. Why? Because he knew he needed their perspective as well as their ideas to help him restore the Union.