Shari Levitin has a theory that the two main things a leader needs are competency and empathy, and empathy needs to come first. If you lead with empathy to build a relationship, then your competency can come into play to help close the deal. If you’re lacking either one, you’re out.
Ultimately, she says that trust is formed with five pieces: Empathy to open the door, and then reliability, competency, integrity and vulnerability will help keep you there.
Here is Shari breaking it down with a short story:
Empathy is easy to consider, but can be tricky to really uncover. I think there are a few things we can all do to help increase our level of empathy for others:
- Appreciate the concept of sonder, that everyone has a story as rich and deep as yours. It’s easy to feel like the main character in life, but no one else sees you that way.
- Try to see both sides of every situation, especially those you disagree with, and then learn to engage with compassion for both sides.
- Try to figure out the reason why others act the way they do. Maybe they’re jerks, or maybe you’re showing up in a way that brings out the worst in them.
It takes work. Beyond the overall concepts I listed above, focused effort (like the salesperson did with Shari’s husband in the video above) can make a huge difference. Finding mutual friends and interests can make a huge difference.
You still need to be able to back things up with competence to build your trust, but empathy needs to come first.