A number of years ago I was on my way with my young family to celebrate Christmas Eve with my parents. We had spent the day before at Disneyland because we were told it wasn’t crowded the day before Christmas Eve. Whoever told us that was wrong!
It was hot, very crowded, and I was grumpy. I was also very critical of others. It seemed like most of the teenagers that day were troublemakers decked out in their backward caps, low hanging pants and white cotton tank tops. I made judgments on their character based on things I had seen in the news and in my neighborhood recently. I wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around.
As we were driving to my parents the next day to celebrate Christmas Eve we came upon an accident. A car was on fire and the people were still in it not aware that the smoke billowing from the back was coming from their car.
I told my wife to take our car and kids to a safe place, and I ran to the vehicle to help get these people out and get them to a safe place across the street. What I saw next taught me something I will never forget.
There sitting on the curb with backward caps, low hanging pants and white cotton tank tops with tears streaming down their eyes were the very same types of teenagers I had made snide remarks about the day before. However, this time I had no snide remarks, only compassion and relief that they were safe.
I learned something remarkable that day; none of us are immune from adversity in our lives. Each of us has our own sad moments and things we are dealing with regardless of how “tough” we might appear. I became a different person that day as a husband, father and leader.
Empathy is foundational to effective leadership. When we put ourselves in the shoes of another we learn to do what’s right for those we lead.
Watch for my next post that contains a video on empathy that will change you. You don’t want to miss it!
Related posts on empathy that you will also want to read include:
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