Fostering Empathetic Leadership
By Asha Vyas
Interactions with co-workers and patrons are an unavoidable part of any library job. Like it or not, we cannot work tucked safely in a tower of floor-to-ceiling books. Practicing and teaching empathetic leadership will strengthen your organization and contribute to positive experiences for library patrons and co-workers alike.
What is empathetic leadership? Simply put, it’s acknowledging others’ perspectives in an authentic way. A key component of being authentic is engaging with others.
To begin this process, take a look at the number of connections you have. Look for ways to increase your connections and authentically foster those connections using a positive mindset. Lean in, ask leading questions, learn, and respond with information-based advice or answers.
Empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Here are a few actionable tips to develop empathy:
- Be curious and ask open-ended questions.
- Stay neutral and focus on offering recommendations, and solutions. Don’t make assumptions.
- Actively listen more than you speak and accept the reality – you’re not going to be able to solve every issue or accommodate every need, but some form of connection and understanding is key to empathy.
This is a managerial skill that trickles down in a positive way. Library employees can use this strategy to foster relationships with co-workers and patrons. They can offer solutions like a new way to do something. For example, checking out digital materials or an audiobook rather than waiting for the physical material or recommending an adult read a children’s book to gain a fundamental understanding of a topic. Empower your staff to look for solutions and make them part of the voice of the community library. After experiencing the stressors of the pandemic and juggling responsibilities, remember that colleagues and patrons want to feel understood and noticed.
What are some additional ways to practice empathy within your organization?
Encourage collaboration and engagement with colleagues:
- Create an internal newsletter to share information and recognize co-workers for recent professional and personal accomplishments like creating a new display, patron complements, and work anniversaries.
- Offer to collaborate with a co-worker on a new initiative like hosting an event or a new service.
- Initiate in-house training on areas in which others seem to struggle and implement staff mentoring for simple items or formal training – like Linkedin Learning – for broader topics [Excel, anyone?].
Leadership is a process and effective leaders earn respect by what they do, not the authority they are given. Foster empathetic leadership within your community library by reaching out, finding connections, and building relationships. These relationships form the basis for a strong community library.
Asha Vyas is a Training Content Specialist with Your Part-Time Controller, LLC. Your Part-Time Controller [YPTC] provides customized accounting and financial management services for over 1200 nonprofits nationwide. Since 1993, YPTC has built transformative, personalized solutions based on clients’ financial needs, including cash flows, funding streams, financial concerns, and internal control challenges. YPTC is committed to educating organizations through webinars and resources that provide relevant takeaways and best practices. To learn more about YPTC and browse our content, visit www.yptc.com.