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Speak Up, Not Over – What is Empathic Assertiveness?

In leadership, silence can be deafening. Inaction can be damaging. But how do you strike a balance between assertiveness and empathy?

Recently, I coached Stella, a director at an investment company, who was grappling with a professional challenge. A dilemma with her peer, Jason, had arisen.

They had agreed on a critical business strategy, but when Jason fell short, Stella was left to pick up the pieces. She faced a classic conundrum: confront or remain silent?

Picture this: Stella discovers Jason's misstep. Here's how she might react:

  1. Stella angrily confronts Jason, causing him to become defensive and potentially damage their professional relationship.

  2. Stella reaches out to Jason, mentions the oversight, but doesn't press further. Their professional rapport suffers, and Stella's leadership stance appears weakened.

  3. Stella engages Jason directly, albeit gently. Jason gets defensive, and Stella looks at him without saying a word for a short while, seeing past his defensiveness, then says, "Jason, I'm not putting you down. I'm just feeling upset that this has happened. I don’t want this to get in the way of our collaboration. How can we ensure this doesn't impact our team's performance?" Jason softens, apologizes, and they work together to resolve the issue.

Stella's realization? She often leaned towards the second approach, compromising both the task at hand and her position of authority. Yet, she saw there was a middle path — one where she could be assertive without being combative.

In my workshops on 'Influencing Others', a pattern became clear. Many perceived themselves as collaborative. But closer inspection revealed a trend of avoiding tough conversations, leading to superficial collaboration.

This isn't merely a revelation; it's a call to action in our leadership style. Authentic collaboration requires confronting challenges head-on — but with heart and understanding.

Speaking up isn't about dominating a conversation or sidestepping issues. It's about blending assertiveness with empathy to cultivate genuine bonds.

I confess I've been guilty of it myself. Holding back, fearing conflict, or being too assertive without enough empathy. But it's through these experiences and missteps, that I've learned, evolved, and continue to strive for that balance.

Reflect on those moments when you opted for silence or aggression. How could a touch of empathy have transformed those situations?

Remember, the strength of a leader doesn’t lie in volume or silence but in the tone of empathy and assertiveness. Resist the allure of surface-level collaboration.

Embrace empathic assertiveness, and with consistent practice, watch as it transforms your leadership style and the dynamics of your entire team. __________________________


You're an Alpha Leader - brilliant, driven, formidable. But what about the emotional landscape of leadership? It can sometimes strain relationships and team dynamics.

Here is where I come in.

Together, we'll shape you into an Empathic Alpha Leader, where strength meets understanding, and decisiveness pairs with empathy.

Start your journey to empathic leadership today.



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