Becoming a successful professional doesn’t have to mean losing your humanity. For years, society has told us that in order to be successful you need to be a little ruthless. Ebenezer Scrooge kept his eye on profits, Mad Men showed us to manipulate and sacrifice (and if you were a woman, to act more like a man), and in countless movies it always seems like the wo/man on top has a heart of stone.
The trend is trying to tell us that in order to be a leader you need to be cold, calculated, and “all business”, but the workplace is changing. CEOs are no longer in the highest corner office, cut off from their staff. Collaborative workspace is rising in popularity, not just for coworking spaces but also for corporate office structure. Today’s professional cares more about office culture and benefits than their salary, preferring to work in an environment that provides a healthy, open atmosphere rather than a high-paying position in a sterile cubicle.
What does this mean? It means you no longer need to stifle your emotional instincts in order to succeed, especially if you’re the boss.
The goal of pretty much every businesses is to make money. All the same, there are other important elements to being successful. For instance, business leaders ought to be compassionate. For some, this may seem like some hippy-esque nonsense that won’t help a bottom line, but there’s actually a case for being an empathic leader.
While the idea might indeed seem “hippy-esque,” the results are quantifiable. Empathetic leaders breed a loyal workforce, rather than employees who are simply coming in for a steady paycheck. A professional will always work longer and harder for a company they truly believe in, or for a boss they admire.
From personal experience, I can tell you that I have never worked harder in my life than I do at this fabulous organization, the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce (except for when I was working for myself at Otis College of Art and Design, but let’s not talk about that, I’ll get sleep-deprivation flashbacks…). And the reason is simple: our leadership. There is never a day that goes by that my boss, coworkers, board of directors, or community doesn’t make me feel appreciated. My work is praised, my dedication is acknowledged, and I have been lucky enough to hug each member of our leadership on multiple occasions (something incredibly important to me, if you know my style), all of which have succeeded in securing my loyalty for years to come. We are a family over here at your local chamber, all working toward the common goal of making the LAX Coastal community a better place to work and live, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it all because a little friendly compassion can make more of an impact than you might think.
There are many reasons why leaders ought to consider embodying more of these human skills—one, they breed trust among underlings; two they make for a more cohesive work culture—and, as three business leaders told Fast Company during this year’s Innovation Festival, these sorts of human skills are greatly in demand.
So go ahead and embrace human nature. Show compassion. Be empathetic. Understand that while yes, work is work, you can still blur the boundaries with your coworkers and staff. Just remind yourself that the men and women working beside you are people, and just like all people they appreciate a little compassion when it is deserved. And rather than seeing this attitude as a weakness, realize that it just might be your newfound key to success.