Watch: #ChamberBreakers - How leaders can harness empathy to lead change
It doesn’t matter where in the world we live, our personal and professional lives have all been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Gearing up to reboot our companies, societies and the economy in the wake of this disruption presents businesses with a rare chance to implant fresh ways of working and tackling today’s biggest problems, based on new collaborative values.
In its second season, the #ChamberBreakers podcast series is focusing on corporate social responsibility, education, and the workforce at a time of global crisis.
In the seventh episode of this season, Lianna Brinded, head of Yahoo Finance UK, and Xavier White, CSR and innovation marketing manager for Verizon Business, speak to Sandra Kerr OBE, race and equality director for Business in the Community.
Created over 40 years ago, Business in the Community is the UK’s largest business-led organisation, committed to responsible practices and the prosperity of society as a whole.
“If ever recovery needs to be inclusive, it's now,” Kerr says. “If we want to draw on the expertise so that we can really build back better and collaboratively and responsibly… we need everybody in the UK to feel like ‘I've got a part to play.’”
“What we need is leaders who have a vision for the future… that can really bring people along with them,” she says.
To be a change-leader demands the empathy, openness, and humility, to “take on perspectives from other people and not just see everything through the way that it's always been.”
Now more than ever, EQ, or emotional intelligence, is essential in business – Kerr believes it should be a “mandatory” training within companies. “For me, emotional intelligence is about being empathetic and being authentic,” Kerr says.
“I think there's a sensitivity there to be able to read cues that aren't explicit — it doesn't have to be some magic trick where you're expected to read everybody's minds… it's about being aware of yourself and of others.”
Leaders “need to first know themselves,” Kerr says, so they can be aware of their own emotional triggers, and manage them in challenging situations.
That self-awareness can go hand-in-hand with fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “We know that the more diverse a workplace is, the more innovative it is, and the more innovative a workplace is, the more profitable it is,” Kerr says.
However, she stresses that diversity and inclusion education training should start long before people enter the workplace. Young people from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds need to see themselves represented in the curriculum — and reflected in their teachers.
“When you're teaching, you're looking at role models, inventors… find a Black role model, find an Asian person who did it as well,” she says. “So that what you are starting already with young minds is showing history and people who have done great works are across the board so that [the young people] can actually see themselves.”
The eight-part video series is also a podcast and is out every Thursday. Next week’s final episode features Charlie Craggs, Trans Activist, Author, and Founder of Nail Transphobia.