No single challenge has been greater for me as a leader than learning how to take better care of the people I lead, and to create a safe, supportive space in which they can thrive. Like most men I know, I grew up with very little modeling around empathy — the ability to recognize, experience and be sensitive to what others are feeling.
Empathy proved especially difficult for me whenever I felt vulnerable. My instinctive response was to protect myself, most often with aggression. I equated aggression with safety, and vulnerability with weakness. Today, I recognize the opposite is often true. The more I acknowledge my own fears and uncertainties, the safer people feel with me and the more effectively they work. But even now, I’m amazed at how dense I can sometimes be.