You have a successful track record. Your company is doing well. But over a period of time, you have lost touch with your employees.
In fact, when you aren’t in the room, they may describe you as “calloused” or uncaring.
But they don’t know what it takes to run a business. You can’t always stop to be warm and fuzzy with everyone.
Is that true?
You may be suffering from the beginnings of hubris syndrome.
Neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi has found that power damages our mirror-neurological activity — the neurological function that indicates the ability to understand and associate with others.
“David Owen, a British physician and parliamentarian, has dubbed this phenomenon hubris syndrome. He defines this as a ‘disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years.’” (Hougaard, et al).
Are some people just born with an inability to handle power?
Or is a hardened profile required to rise to – and stay at the top?
Hubris syndrome is actually an acquired personality change in people who assume positions of power. There are a few key symptoms that indicate one is suffering from this, and one particularly dark side to it is an inability to have compassion for other people. This can lead to devastating effects, and we’ve all witnessed this. Martin Winterkorn and the Volkswagen scandal. Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Hisao Tanaka of Toshiba.
These business leaders are among those who, over time, developed a greed and lust for more power. This caused them to lose their ability to feel compassion for others.
And the results were disastrous.
You are probably saying that you could never turn into a Winterkorn or Shkreli. And hopefully, you are right. However, if you have been in a position of power for some time, you will want to check on your ability to feel and exercise compassion.
Compassion moves beyond empathy, which is the ability to read and feel the emotions of others.
Compassion is a proactive commitment to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. It’s an intentional attitude that, through regular practice, can be strengthened and become the hallmark of your leadership.
Here are some first steps to begin cultivating your compassion:
1. Seek to support others in your connections.
Each time you interact with others, begin by asking yourself, “How can I be of benefit to this person?” This turns your focus outward and strengthens your intentional commitment to their happiness.
2. Identify a family member who could use some support, or someone in your work who is a difficult personality.
Meditate on that person and send caring thoughts about their well-being. A common intention that people hold for this particular exercise is to repeat the statement, “May you be free from suffering. May you have joy and ease.”
3. Exercise compassion for yourself.
Where are you lacking compassion for yourself? Identify where you might be holding yourself to an impossible standard, or figuratively beating yourself up for past mistakes. Forgive yourself and move forward. Unless we can forgive our own errors, we cannot really do so for others.
You will notice as you begin an intentional compassion practice that your sense of purpose and contribution begin to grow alongside. And, funny thing, others respond well to practiced compassion. Your employees will begin to feel recognized and valued. Trust grows. And in turn, engagement, morale, and all the things that you need in order to sustain your business.
This creates a win-win situation.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.