I Don't Understand

What is it that separates some leaders from the rest? What is it that makes her so effective? Why do others look up to him and follow his leadership? I have observed those special leaders through the years and I believe the differentiating factor is their ability to understand. Put another way, they have chosen to hone the skill of empathy. While some may think that empathy is an intrinsic character that only some possess, I believe that it is a learned behavior. 
Many times what our team members don't need is our sympathy. What they do need is our empathy. The difference is that offering sympathy says, "I'm sorry for what you are experiencing" while showing empathy says, "I want to truly understand your situation".  Strong leaders choose to take empathy to the next level which is to put themselves in other's shoes. They surround themselves with teams who have the freedom to express differing opinions. They not only listen to those opinions, they truly seek to understand the views and opinions of others. 
Leading with empathy is difficult and it is much easier to make decisions based on our own prejudices, opinions and view of the world. The leader who has the courage to have meaningful conversations with those who differ from her is the leader who will consistently make better decisions. This style of leadership is rooted in respect and grown with humility. Seeking to understand another's point of view or perspective does not equal compromise or weak leadership. Conversely, it demonstrates a self confident leader who has the strength to lead with understanding and not narcissism.  I believe that leaders who refuse to understand are reacting out of fear and insecurity. 
There are times when developing an understanding of those who differ from you will change your thought process. There are other times when it will not. Either way, you have demonstrated the skill of trying to understand others. At the end of the day, when we demonstrate empathy we offer one of the most important gifts to those around us. The ability to be heard and to be understood. 
Choose to be a leader who leads with empathy and you will make a difference.