Empathy is a good trait to possess, but can be taken too far in certain circumstances. While on the eliptical trainer this morning, I happened to hear Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions' commentary in the Sonia Sotamayor confirmation hearing.
Sonia has been praised for her empathy, but Senator Sessions pointed out something important to note. Empathy for someone's plight should not overrule the law. Additionally, he said that empathy for one person, race, etc. is prejudice for another. I wholeheartedly agree.
So what is empathy's place in our leadership toolbox today? Empathy serves some roles better than others. In the courtroom or other jobs requiring objective viewpoints or rules/laws to be followed, a bias towards an empathetic outlook might contribute to bad decision making. Facts are facts and empathy towards one stance or another has no bearing on the solution or verdict.
Additionaly, in leadership, too little empathy can hinder relationship development and subordinate performance. On the other hand, I've found with my clients that too much empathy often hinders progress.
Effective leadership requires a balanced approach. How balanced are you? What are your thoughts on the issue? Hit the comment link below and let us know!