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Empathetic or Decisive?


Effective leaders and managers need to be both!  But, in my experience, not for profit workplaces can tend to be more empathetic, private sector workplaces more decisive.  What can they learn from each other?

Empathy is the ability to listen actively to another person’s perspectives, to understand the most subtle nuances behind their message and/or behaviour and to respond compassionately to how they feel.  Empathetic leaders and managers know that the emotional-human factor is key to strong relationships with both staff and clients so they:

  • Co-operate (strive for consensus)
  • Delegate (motivate others to perform beyond what they thought they could do)
  • Use Humour (tell stories to make their points clearly but respectfully)
  • Negotiate (focus on win-win solutions)
  • Are Patient (tolerant)
  • Use Tact (social diplomacy)

Decisiveness is the ability to commit to action nimbly even when all the facts may not be readily available.  Decisive leaders can seize  new opportunities as they pop up as well as  make those tough calls when life goes to heck in a handbasket.  They almost always have a Plan B (and C…) in their back pocket and will assume accountability for the results.  They’d rather take action than get stuck in analysis paralysis.  Decisive leaders and managers may operate from :

  • Analysis (think systematically) or
  • Intuition (trust their hunches) or
  • A combination of the two

Most are:

  • Assertive (can stand up for themselves without compromising others;  can say “no”)
  • Risk Takers (are comfortable with ambiguity and willing to take a calculated risk)

Maybe you’ve worked with:

  • An Empathetic manager who let one of your colleagues take liberties with the leaves of absence policy rather than tackle his absenteeism on a timely basis.  How did the rest of the team feel covering all those absences?  How did that impact client service?  How might that have impacted the organization’s sustainability?
  • A Decisive leader who who trusted her gut ande took risks without any analysis  or calculation?  How did the rest of the team feel jumping from pillar to post?  How did that impact client satisfaction?  How might that have impacted the organization’s profitability?

Like most things, it’s all about balance.  A team approach means that two plus heads are better than one.  We see not for profits recruiting more business people for their Boards and the private sector becoming more conscious of emotional intelligence.  Collaboration works!