by Michael Mechanic, The Atlantic Magazine, 4/4/21.
…More than a decade ago, as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of the UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, Piff used a series of rigged Monopoly games to see how people would respond to being placed randomly into a position of privilege. Some 200 student volunteers were pitted against one another. The “rich” player was given twice as much cash as the “poor” player, collected twice as much money when passing Go, and passed Go more often, because he got to roll two dice while the poorer player got only one. (Richie Rich also got the most popular playing piece, the little car, while his opponent received the undesirable boot.)
As the games progressed, rich players became more and more cocksure. They spoke louder, moved their pieces more aggressively, and even consumed more pretzels from bowls that the researchers had put out as part of the experiment. “We had little gradients on the table where you could measure how much space a person is taking up from when they began to when they ended,” Piff told me. “The richer players began to take up more room. They got bigger as they got richer.”
The Monopoly experiment wasn’t the most rigorous science ever, and Piff never published the results, although the study was later replicated by others and referenced in Piff’s popular TED Talk, “Does Money Make You Mean?” But his observations were consistent with a large body of social science finding that people of higher socioeconomic status, compared with those lower down the ladder, are more prone to entitlement and narcissistic behavior. Wealthier subjects also tend to be more self-oriented and more willing to behave unethically in their own self-interest (to lie during negotiations, say, or to steal from an employer). In one study, Piff and his colleagues stationed a pedestrian at the edge of a busy crosswalk and watched to see which cars would let the person cross. Suffice it to say that Fords and Subarus were far more likely to stop than Mercedeses and BMWs.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I teach at the doctoral level “transformational leadership.” And transformational leadership is founded upon an understanding that compassionate leadership is needed, in addition to empathetic leadership. Some of the problems facing America today including our propensity toward a cancel culture are because of a confusion between compassion and empathy. Here is an expert on the differences, explaining why it’s important to practice compassionate leadership, not just the empathetic type.
by Rasmus Hougaard, Forbes Magazine, 7/8/20.
Empathy is an important, foundational emotion for human connection. It is the spark that can ignite compassion. But on its own, without compassion, empathy is a danger for leaders. As controversial as this may sound, the reasoning is simple: Empathy is the brain’s wired tendency to identify with those who are close to us – close in proximity, close in familiarity, or close in kinship. And when we empathize with those close to us, those who are not close or are different seem threatening. When unchecked, empathy can create more division than unity.
Empathy and compassion are very different. They are represented in different areas of the brain. With empathy, we join the suffering of others who suffer, but stop short of actually helping. With compassion, we take a step away from the emotion of empathy and ask ourselves ‘how can we help?’. For leaders, recognizing the differences between empathy and compassion is critical for inspiring and managing others effectively. Remember these four main points in responding to your people with compassion instead of empathy.
1. Empathy is impulsive. Compassion is deliberate…
2. Empathy is divisive. Compassion is unifying…
3. Empathy is inert. Compassion is active…
4. Empathy is draining. Compassion is regenerative..,
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.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “Emotional intelligence (EQ) indicates an ability to mature in the emotions that affect your leadership and management. Yet, research shows we are better at gauging others’ emotional intelligence than our own. And especially challenging is working with people who have low emotional intelligence. These are often people attracted to Christ and His church for the stability it offers. Learn the basics of emotional intelligence and how to improve yours (and your team’s) in this helpful overview in the Harvard Business Review. Here are the keys: be gentle, be explicit, be rational and don’t be offended.”
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “What do you do with that underperforming student? Or perhaps they are an underperforming employee? Research shows that compassion and curiosity are the best ways to help them get back on the effectiveness track. So, rather than increasing the severity of your punishment, take an interest in what they are going through and show compassion. Research shows that when employees feel you have empathy they will work harder towards shared goals. Read this Harvard Business Review article to review the research.”
By Christine M. Riordan, Harvard Business Review, 1/16/14.
Study after study has shown that listening is critical to leadership effectiveness. So, why are so few leaders good at it?… leaders need to start by really caring about what other people have to say about an issue. Research also shows that active listening, combined with empathy or trying to understand others’ perspectives and points of view is the most effective form of listening. Henry Ford once said that if there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in another person’s place and to see things from his or her point of view -bas well as from one’s own.
Research has linked several notable behavior sets with empathic listening.
1) The first behavior set involves recognizing all verbal and nonverbal cues, including tone, facial expressions, and other body language. In short, leaders receive information by all senses and not just hearing. Sensitive leaders pay attention to what others are not saying and probe a bit deeper. They also understand how others are feeling and acknowledge those feelings. Sample phrases include the following: Thank you for sharing how you feel about this situation, it is important to understand where everyone is coming from on the issue; Would you share a bit more on your thoughts on this situation; You seem excited (happy, upset…) about this situation, and I would like to hear more about your perspective.
2) The second set of empathic listening behaviors is processing, which includes the behaviors we most commonly associate with listening. It involves understanding the meaning of the messages and keeping track of the points of the conversation. Leaders who are effective at processing assure others that they are remembering what others say, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and capture global themes and key messages from the conversation. Sample phrases might include the following: Here are a couple of key points that I heard from this meeting; here are our points of agreement and disagreement; here are a few more pieces of information we should gather; here are some suggested next steps—what do you think?
3) The third set of behaviors, responding, involves assuring others that listening has occurred and encouraging communication to continue. Leaders who are effective responders give appropriate replies through verbal acknowledgements, deep and clarifying questioning, or paraphrasing. Important non-verbal behaviors include facial expressions, eye contact, and body language. Other effective responses might include head nods, full engagement in the conversation, and the use of acknowledging phrases such as ‘That is a great point.’
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “Leader … watch yourself! Researchers have long known that the higher your position, power, finances and/or status in society the less easily you will empathize with the needy. See my chapter on this in Growth by Accident, Death by Planning (Abingdon Press, 2004). Here is research that again proves it!”
Powerful and Coldhearted, New York Times, 7/25/14
I FEEL your pain.
These words are famously associated with Bill Clinton, who as a politician seemed to ooze empathy. A skeptic might wonder, though, whether he truly was personally distressed by the suffering of average Americans. Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them?
Psychological research suggests the answer is no. Studies have repeatedly shown that participants who are in high positions of power (or who are temporarily induced to feel powerful) are less able to adopt the visual, cognitive or emotional perspective of other people, compared to participants who are powerless (or are made to feel so).
For example, Michael Kraus, a psychologist now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and two colleagues found that among full-time employees of a public university, those who were higher in social class (as determined by level of education) were less able to accurately identify emotions in photographs of human faces than were co-workers who were lower in social class. (While social class and social power are admittedly not the same, they are strongly related.)
Why does power leave people seemingly coldhearted? Some, like the Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, have suggested that powerful people don’t attend well to others around them because they don’t need them in order to access important resources; as powerful people, they already have plentiful access to those.
We suggest a different, albeit complementary, reason from cognitive neuroscience. On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others…
3 Emotions at the Root of Success
by Geoffrey James, Inc. Magazine, 4/1/14
“People who accomplish great things tend to feel these three emotions very strongly – and that’s no coincidence… Yesterday, the final piece of a puzzle fell into my lap, a puzzle I’ve been working on for the past 10 years.
I’ve been trying to build a model for how emotions create success, but I kept on getting tripped up when I came to gratitude. I was categorizing it as a result of success or a form of success. And that didn’t seem quite right, somehow.
Here’s the missing puzzle piece: A study soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science proves that people who are grateful are willing to wait longer for a financial reward. In other words, gratitude creates patience.
Bingo. I’m now able to put gratitude where it actually belongs: as a source, rather than result, of success. This completes the following pattern: