Moving Beyond Fixing to Empowering

“The Power of Connection in Leadership: Moving Beyond Fixing to Empowering”

Leadership often requires navigating challenges and the art of providing guidance without alienation. Recently, a friend and I had a conversation that shed light on a different approach to leadership—one based on connection rather than curing.

The Conversation: As my friend shared his concerns about a project setback, I listened intently. “Do you really believe you can help your leader?” I asked. His unwavering determination was inspiring. He laid out his leader’s predicament and a well-thought-out solution. “I understand your perspective,” I said, “but have you considered whether your leader is ready to accept your help?” My friend paused, reflecting on my question. “Well, she should, but I worry she might get defensive,” he admitted. “It’s a common reaction,” I nodded, “unasked-for advice often feels like criticism.” “Why is that?” my friend inquired. I pondered his question and shared my thoughts. “I believe it’s because of cognitive dissonance,” I explained. “Our minds can be combative when presented with conflicting beliefs from our own.” “What do you suggest?” he asked.

The Shift: “Instead of providing solutions upfront, consider this,” I began. “What if, instead of trying to ‘cure’ your leader of their problem, you aimed to ‘connect’ with them?” “Why would this be important?” my friend asked. “Because of cognitive dissonance,” I said. “When someone tries to fix us and our problems without us asking, it challenges our belief that we are smart and capable. It also feels instinctually threatening to our identity that we are good leaders, parents, and friends.” “What’s the alternative?” my friend asked. I encouraged a two-step process:

The Two-Step Process:

Connect through Reflective Listening and Empathy: By actively listening and empathizing, we create a sense of safety and connection rather than disconnection and threat. Reflect back what you hear and offer empathetic responses like, “That sounds frustrating.” I can’t emphasize the importance of empathy enough. When people share their problems with us and receive intellectual problem-solving advice in return, many feel emotionally disconnected. Some become frustrated, while others withdraw (Goulston, 2010). Often, it’s due to a lack of empathic connection.

Ask Questions: Show interest in their perspective by asking questions like, “What do you think is the best option?” or “Is there anything I can do to help?” This approach invites partnering and reduces resistance.

Conclusion: Leadership isn’t merely about fixing problems; people aren’t math equations. Leading is about forming empathic connections through skillful and empowering communication. It’s about partnering with individuals so they can unearth and own their solutions. Embark on this two-step journey in your leadership odyssey, and see how it magically transforms your interactions. 🪄✨

See you soon-

~ Tim