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Developing Better Leaders Through Empathy

Anju Sethi, VP of Talent, Change, and D&I, King

Anju Sethi, VP of Talent, Change, and D&I, King

In 2016, Bob Dylan was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize for literature. It was probably the highest honor of his life, something that most musicians do not even dare to aspire achieving. In his own words “If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I would have about the same odds as standing on the moon.” Deeply unsatisfied with many things, along the way, he changed his name in a 2004 interview, Bob Dylan said of his name change, “You are born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.” However, more surprisingly, Dylan has never had a number one single on the Billboard chart. The closest he has come is ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’, which both reached number two in 1965 and 1966 respectively. The Byrds’s cover of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ did hit the top spot, though.

"The most important factor in developing a leader is in enabling them to unleash their innate capacity for empathy. Emotional intelligence is what differentiates leaders from great strategists or managers"

What did it take for this “ordinary” man to go on this remarkable journey that ended with him being branded as a leader in music.

There are so many lessons here for leaders and what it takes to develop them. True you have to begin with a few traits. Almost all great leaders are focused on what they can do for others, personal glory is an outcome, not the initial pursuit. They collaborate, bring people together, create networks and connections, they learn constantly and are aware of who is learning from them.

It is easy to think Dylan was born with it all. Though iconic, Dylan’s voice is not conventionally beautiful. It is likely that he would not win on the show, The Voice, but is that what sets him apart?

It is a combination of many things, he worked and collaborated across genres, ages and genders, stayed true and authentic to his voice and style, was interested in the purity of what he produced for his audience. And that is what great leaders do. In order to develop great leaders, we must nurture these traits in them. Any good development program should help leaders become better networkers. Bringing people together, making new connections and spotting and bringing talent together is often behind some real breakthroughs.

The second pillar of developing leaders is helping them find the highest expression of their authentic voice. What does the leader stand for, principles that they uphold regardless of ambition and intention. The most important factor in developing a leader is in enabling them to unleash their innate capacity for empathy. Emotional intelligence is what differentiates leaders from great strategists or managers. And of course, these skills are important too, however, more on that when we talk about the Rolling stones.

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