In preparing young professionals for leadership, we have no shortage of insights to help them get a leg up on their long journey. One needs only to Google “Leadership Tips for Millennials” to be bombarded with a wealth of information on how to be the most conscious and assertive person in the workplace. But are we giving the right advice? How far will confidence and a sharp wardrobe actually get you?
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma suggested that we are ignoring one vital component: Love.
Now, we aren’t necessarily talking about whirlwind romances or sappy moments in the rain here, but rather the heart and soul of what makes us human. The joy for life and drive to connect with others. Empathy, gratitude, and generosity. These are the things that should be marked at the top of all of the ‘Top 10 Traits for Leadership’ articles, because they are what define us as human and what separates us from machines.
Studies have shown that those three practices – empathy, gratitude, and generosity – are key to success in leadership and maintaining a productive, contented workplace.
Dacher Keltner, in writing for the Harvard Business Review, described how US senators who used emphatic facial expressions and tones of voice when speaking to the floor got more bills passed than those using domineering or threatening gestures in their demeanor and speeches. Newly formed groups that express appreciation for one another are more likely to feel a stronger connection to each other months down the road. When managers take the time to thank their employees, they are more likely to work harder. Organizations that provided an opportunity to donate to charities typically had more satisfied and productive employees.
Where it sounds like this might be another item added to the very full plate of the modern business leader, Keltner gives a few examples of small, split second decisions to reinforce these positive feelings:
- For expressing empathy, try active listening. Use your body language to show the other person that you are listening to them and value what they are trying to say. This can be done by physically orienting your body toward them, and making eye contact.
- To practice gratitude, remember to thank people for a job well done. And this isn’t just a quick “Thanks!” thrown in at the end of an email. Try to make it a complete statement – “I really appreciate that you were able to help me with this project at the last minute!”
- For generosity, this might be illustrated in taking a quick moment to give praise, or to share the limelight when you get celebrated on a good job – did other people help you? If so, share the love and make sure you give them credit!
Some of these tips can be difficult to utilize when working with colleagues in other countries, because they are not physically there to get the clap on the back or to read the body language. This can be compensated for with good communication. Be specific and articulate. This is especially important over text, where people have no cues but the written material to infer a greater context for the situation. All of these practices are just the product of a moment’s thought, yet they carry a priceless benefit.
This article was written by Kristina Weber of Centry Ltd. For more content like this, follow us on Twitter @CentryLTD!