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What endears followers to a leader? Is it charisma? Popularity? Personality? While these are important qualities for leaders, they aren’t endearing qualities. Charisma soon fades if character can’t back it up. Popularity is fleeting because people are fickle. You can be their hero one day and their villain the next. Go to bed a hero, one unflattering overnight tweet or Facebook post and you wake up a zero. Persona non grata. Popularity is never permanent. Personality? People bore easily and are always looking for the next “personality” to entertain or amuse them. So what is it?
What will make people run through fire with gasoline on their shoes for a leader? One thing. Empathy. There was a quote back in the day that every corporate trainer would repeat ad nauseam - “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Trite but true.
If you have no empathy for people it is impossible to do right by people. And they know it. The most important quality of a leader is not his or her ability to bend others to their will because of their pedigree, position or power of persuasion. Any cult leader can persuade, but only a true leader can lead. And people give consent to be led when they know you care. And when they know you care, they will follow you to hell and back.
The single most important quality in a leader especially in public office is empathy. Not sympathy. Empathy. The innate and trained ear to hear and the heart and will to comprehend. You have to be able to understand where people are coming from in order to lead them where you want them to go. Even more, to take the time to care enough to do it.
A leader too busy to care is a leader too busy to lead. We have lost the essential abilities to care and to listen. We are so ready to respond that we don't take the time to receive. The ability to communicate with one another as human beings is the element in leadership and relationships missing today.
Political leaders can disagree on policy, but when they begin looking at one another as a personal enemy instead of two people who just have an honest disagreement on policy, then they and those they lead suffer. Why? Because God created us for community. He didn't intend for us to agree on everything - He intentionally wired us that way. He didn't create all trees as palm trees nor did he create every fruit an apple.
In His infinite wisdom, he created us differently to be able to help and identify with others who are different from us -- through communication. And together, we can make all things better. Even ourselves. A tree can't grow without roots and roots can't spread without being embedded in soil. They are one for the same purpose. A bird can't fly with one wing nor will America progress and survive as a nation with just one wing. Whichever wing it is.
If you can't communicate, you won't be able to relate. And if you can't relate, you can't lead. Oh, you can have the title and position as a leader, but you won't enjoy it. Why? Because you will constantly have to connive, twist arms and force people to do what they would do naturally if they are led properly. Beginning with the simple quality of empathy.
A leader too busy to care is a leader too busy to lead.
We have lost the ability to relate to one another as flesh and blood, human beings. The social distance of social media has distanced us from one another. And, in some cases ourselves, as we put forth social media images that simply are not true.
We categorize one another by political party or persuasion and making an enemy of those who don't agree. Most of the time we don't even know them as human, just as an avatar or by what they post on social media, which could or could not be true.
The inability and unwillingness to build relationships are what's missing today. Why? Because we are afraid that someone may find out who we really are and we don’t want to risk damaging the carefully crafted image we’ve built. Or, and more likely, we just don’t care enough anymore to care. Empathy demands two things true leaders view as strengths while wanna-be leaders view as weaknesses - transparency and authenticity.
Few these days are willing to be their authentic self, thinking that somehow signals weakness. Not realizing what it really signals is that you’re human. One imperfect human relating to another imperfect human. And this is what endears the wealthiest, most popular, charismatic leader to people who may be dirt poor. If they believe you care about them and in some way are like them, they will follow you anywhere, defend you to the death and detriment of themselves; and, run through fire with gasoline on their shoes for you.
A self-ascribed, super-human image kills the ability to lead. The arrogance and the unwillingness to hear people, get to know people, understand people yet try to lead them only fuel the level of frustration and anger. Hence what we're seeing today.
People are angry because no one's listening and rioting out of the frustration of knowing that not only are they not being heard; even worse, no one cares enough to listen.
Published on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 @ 4:26 PM CDT