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Empathy: How self-aware leaders create self-aware organizations. Edward Walker MD, MHA Director, UW Healthcare Leadership Development Alliance. “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?” - Henry David Thoreau .

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empathy how self aware leaders create self aware organizations

Empathy: How self-aware leaders create self-aware organizations

Edward Walker MD, MHA

Director, UW Healthcare Leadership Development Alliance


“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?”

- Henry David Thoreau

“If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

- Daniel Goleman


“You know, there's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit -- the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us -- the child who's hungry, the steelworker who's been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this -- when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers -- it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.”

- Barack Obama

positive psychological capital
Positive Psychological Capital

To include constructs within PsyCap they must

be based on theory and research

permit valid measurement

be open to development

have measurable performance impact


Fred Luthans, Bruce J. Avolio, et al.  Positive psychological capital: measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel Psychology60.3 (Autumn 2007): p541-572.

balancing group and individual focus
Balancing group and individual focus


empathy definition
Empathy definition

  The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner


Self-Awareness and Empathy as

Nested Phenomena

Trans Institutional


Intra- & Inter-






Best book to read

on Emotional Intelligence

resonant leadership summary
Resonant Leadership Summary
  • Mindfulness, hope and compassion are key
  • Effective teams and powerful, positive organizational cultures do not happen by accident, they are created by resonant leaders who employ emotional intelligence to motivate and nurture their employees.
  • Yet resonance can be exhausting to maintain; even outstanding leaders can turn dissonant under the pressure of chronic business stress.
  • Rest and relaxation aren't enough to restore emotional resilience. Leaders must:
    • cultivate openness, curiosity and awareness about oneself and others
    • visualize a positive, realistic dream
    • work to understand and improve the situations of others.
step 1 knowing yourself

Step 1: Knowing yourself

“And can we ever know what art makes a man better, if we do not know what we are ourselves?”

Plato, Alcibiades

self awareness

The ability to accurately perceive one's own emotions and stay aware of them as they occur, as well as understanding the impact of one's emotions on specific situations and people.

self awareness16

Knowing one's internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions

  • Emotional awareness: Recognizing one's emotions and their effects
  • Accurate self-assessment: Knowing one's strengths and limits
  • Self-confidence: A strong sense of one's self-worth and capabilities
do you take the time to reflect

Do you take the time to reflect?

Less is more: multitasking has been discredited by neuroscience research

tool the 3 passions

What is your avocation? To what do you return when you are alone and not otherwise occupied?

To whom do you turn to outside of work to be renewed?

What is your core purpose in the work you do? What gives meaning to your work?

Tool: The 3 passions

My family or support system

What renews me personally

The best part of my work

step 2 managing yourself

Step 2: Managing Yourself

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Plato, The Apology

self management

The ability to use awareness of one's emotions to stay flexible and positively direct behavior - managing emotional reactions to specific situations and people.

self management23

Managing ones' internal states, impulses, and resources

  • Emotional Self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check
  • Transparency: Maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change
  • Achievement Orientation: Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence
  • Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities
  • Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks
the 3 management tasks of leaders
The 3 management tasks of leaders
  • Strategic Management
    • Positioning the organization in the environment
  • Tactical Management
    • Achieving operating plan targets with your team
  • Personal management
    • Reflective management of your internal world: time and focus
examining the unexamined life
Examining the unexamined life
  • Jesuit core values
    • Self awareness
    • Ingenuity
    • Love
    • Heroism
  • The discipline of constant self-improvement
  • The examen as a forerunner of Toyota’s Kaizen
tool periodic self examination
Tool: Periodic self examination
  • Think about things that you have done in the past 12 hours
  • Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
  • What worked? What did not?
  • What would you have done differently?
  • Why?
  • If you had not stopped to do this reflection, what would your world have been like?
who has a claim on your time
Who has a claim on your time?








extended family


volunteer work

your time


principles of time management
Principles of time management
  • Managing lists and managing time are not the same thing
  • Time is the most precious resource you have – you turn it into other things
  • Know your rest-recharge cycle needs
  • Whose fault is it if you don’t balance these competing priorities?
  • Burnout is your greatest risk as a leader
burnout definition
Burnout Definition

A debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved work stress, resulting in:

  • Depleted energy and emotional exhaustion
  • Lowered resistance to illness
  • Increased depersonalization in interpersonal relationships
  • Increased dissatisfaction and pessimism
  • Increased absenteeism and work inefficiency

Burnout: The High cost of Achievement, Freudenberger (1980)

catalysts and inhibitors of burnout


Repeated Failure


Lack of purpose



Physical stress

Lack of sleep

Hair on fire work

Living at work



Occasional wins

Team membership

Vision and purpose

Part of the whole

Intermediate goals


Adequate rest


Living at home

Catalysts and inhibitors of burnout
covey first things first importance rather than urgency
Covey: First things firstImportance rather than urgency

Get this out of the way












Then Focus 80% effort



Not urgent


Not urgent




Adapted from Steven Covey

covey s quadrant 2
Covey’s quadrant 2
  • People first, things second
  • Leadership first, management second
  • Effectiveness first, efficiency second
  • Purpose first, structure second
  • Vision first, method second

Covey, First things first

people who have changed the world
People who have changed the world

“What caused followers to dedicate themselves with such passion to the visions of Christ, Buddha, Gandhi, Confucius, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela? They were inspired, not motivated. We know that Martin Luther King did not say, ‘I have a strategic plan!’ And Mother Teresa didn’t have a quality program – she didn’t need one. We are unraveling the mysteries of these powerful styles of leadership and finding that inspiration is a the core of every great leader’s philosophy.”

Secretan, Inspirational Leadership

step 3 knowing others

Step 3: Knowing others

“Seek to understand before being understood”

St. Francis of Assisi, 13th Century, seven centuries before Steven Covey

social awareness
Social Awareness

The ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and get what is really going on. This means understanding what other people are thinking and feeling even when it conflicts with one's own feelings.

social awareness41
Social Awareness

Awareness of others feelings, needs, and concerns

  • Empathy: Sensing others' feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns
  • Organizational awareness: Reading a group's emotional currents and power relationships
  • Service orientation: Anticipating, recognizing, and meeting customers' needs
crucial conversations
Crucial Conversations
  • Understanding
  • Active listening
  • Clarification
  • Alignment

Do you know how to listen?


step 4 managing others

Step 4: Managing others

"To lead people, walk beside them ... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'"

Lao-tsu, Tao Te Ching

relationship management
Relationship Management

The ability to use awareness of one's own emotions and the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully. This includes clear communication and effectiveness in handling conflict.*

* And, sometimes, flowers and candy

relationship management45
Relationship Management

Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others

  • Inspirational Leadership: Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups
  • Developing others: Sensing others' development needs and bolstering their abilities
  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion
  • Change catalyst: Initiating or managing change
  • Conflict management: Resolving disagreements
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Working with others toward shared goals.
how leaders inspire people
How leaders inspire people
  • Qualitative study of several thousand business and government executives
  • “What values do you look for and admire in your superiors?”
    • Honest 88%
    • Forward Looking 75%
    • Inspiring 68%
    • Competent 63%
    • Fair 49%
    • Supportive 41%

Kouzes and Posner, Credibility: how leaders gain and lose it.

5 characteristics of good leaders
5 characteristics of good leaders
  • Qualitative and quantitative study of over 60,000 leaders and constituents over a 15-year period
  • Five recurrent themes in good leaders:
    • Challenging the process
    • Inspiring a shared vision
    • Enabling others to act
    • Modeling the way
    • Encouraging the heart

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

1 challenging the process
1. Challenging the process
  • Good leaders:
    • venture out and take risks
    • step up to meet major challenges
    • recognize good ideas
    • are early adopters of innovation
    • “as weather shapes mountains, problems shape leaders”
    • “leaders learn by leading in the face of obstacles”

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

2 inspiring a shared vision
2. Inspiring a shared vision
  • Good leaders:
    • have visions and dreams of what could be
    • have image of future pulling them forward
    • inspire rather than command commitment
    • help people feel understood
    • breathe life and hope into the dreams of others
    • spread infectious enthusiasm about the future

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

3 enabling others to act
3. Enabling others to act
  • Good leaders:
    • use the word “we”
    • involve all those who must live with the results
    • enable others to act not by hoarding power, but by giving it away
    • proudly discuss teamwork, trust and empowerment as essential elements of their efforts

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

4 modeling the way
4. Modeling the way
  • Good leaders:
    • never ask anyone to do anything they wouldn’t personally do first
    • they go first and show that it can be done
    • model the way by personal example and dedicated execution
    • know that grand dreams are not realized without hard work and persistence, and that they need to show how it is done

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

5 encouraging the heart
5. Encouraging the heart
  • Good leaders:
    • encourage those who share the vision
    • use acts of caring to draw people forward
    • show people that they can win
    • recognize and celebrate
    • reward effort and renew those who fail
    • love their work and those they work with

Kouzes and Posner, The leadership challenge

balancing group and individual focus54
Balancing group and individual focus