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Perspective Taking

December 13, 2018

Perspective Taking

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.

—Stephen Covey

The ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes is a leadership trait that is impossible to measure but that brings an enormous amount of value to each workplace encounter. It allows us to communicate with others and lead them in ways not available to those who simply want to bark orders and dictate terms. It is a style of leadership, interaction, and communication with others that sends subtle messages of caring and concern. It also sends a message that any workplace differences relating to rank, experience, power, and influence can be set aside without harm or prejudice. In other words, the communication ground on which we stand is level. Over my career, I have had the opportunity to witness both styles of leadership communication.

First, there are leaders who want to remain aloof and stay above the fray of the day-to-day busyness and clutter. These leaders stay detached from personal relationship-building activity, do not engage in sincere and honest dialogue to get to know others, and keep all interaction extremely formal with cut-and-dry responses. They don’t let down their “emotional guard” even for a minute. This style of leadership is much more of a transaction-oriented approach than a relationship-building approach in creating workplace culture. Unfortunately, this will create an environment in which there is very little loyalty or trust. I can tell you from firsthand experience that this leadership style will greatly elevate the level of frustration and despondency in the organization. It becomes much easier for the work to become routine, demanding, and pressure-filled.

The more appropriate and energizing style of leadership communication and interaction happens when we get to know one another on a more personal level. When we genuinely reach out to others and try to understand their perspectives, we change the workplace dynamic. Sharing things with one another helps to foster a more caring, bonding, and democratic style of leadership in which everyone feels valued and appreciated. It tells our fellow co-workers and those we lead that who they are as individuals is meaningful outside of the workplace environment. It also tells them that we recognize they have a life and other interests outside of work that are vital parts of their individual makeup.

Outside of a pride-filled worldview, why wouldn’t we want to get to know others? Why wouldn’t we want to express interest in the “goings-on” of our fellow teammates? These are the same teammates on whom we must rely to accomplish various workplace objectives every day. Let’s look to the Bible and the Apostle Paul for further instruction on the ability to use perspective-taking for the benefit of others.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. (1 Cor. 9:19-20)

How beautiful is this verse? Paul was willing to lay everything aside so he could get to know them right where they were in their various stations of life. He was willing to make himself a servant to others by conforming to their respective worlds. Converting sinners was so important to Paul that he was willing to forgo all earthly status to be able to meet the spiritual needs of others. He was willing to lay down all of his worldly credentials (and the list was long) to lead others into a saving knowledge of Jesus. It didn’t matter to him whether the person was a Jew or Gentile.

Let’s bring the leadership trait of perspective-taking back to the workplace environment. Are you willing to step out and get to know others on a deep and personal level? Are you willing to be a servant to your co-workers and meet them (lawfully) right where they are in life to win them to Christ? What about treating your fellow believers this way as well? 

Perspective-taking is a vital part of building workplace relationships. It sends a message to our teammates that we are willing to engage in more than just small talk. In a sense, we are accepting an invitation to participate in another’s world that may not have been open to us before. It allows for deeper insight, understanding, and trust at work.


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