Gluten-free Humility?!


I think vulnerability and empathy are the gluten-free and organic fads of the business world:

“I eat gluten-free therefore I am sophisticatedly healthy.”

“I am humble therefore I am a thoughtful leader.”

And everyday, I am constantly faced with situations where I had to choose amongst being a dick, or being empathetic (?), or be somewhat zen-like. These situations are fun.

So let’s go. 2 scenarios. No big deal. Just 2 scenarios.

Scenario 1: “Hey, I don’t know this. Can you teach me?”

Positive mode:

Wow, my boss doesn’t care about how she looks and is humble enough to admit she doesn’t know! Wow she treasures my knowledge and wants to learn from me!

Dick mode:

This shit is so basic I am no longer inspired to climb up the ladder because he is the example of what it takes to get there. It’s like you are the kind who eats gluten free bread and picks his nose while waiting for the ATM machine.

Fake-Zen mode:

I think vulnerability and humility are great, only when you add one more (organic) ingredient to them. That’s learning agility.

Learning agility could be how you learn, or how you change your mind, or how you adapt to change. Without that, it’s just like going after the organic label on a bag of highly processed potato chips. It actually back fires. People figure out you don’t actually want to learn or care, or you don’t actually have the ability to learn. You are just dumb and don’t learn. You become that dumbass boss who … overdelegates/makes dumb decisions/”I can’t go to her for anything critical”/”let’s just smile and get him out of our office”.

Scenario 2: “ How do you feel about the receiving process?”

Positive mode:

I am inspired by my leader who cares about my feelings. I feel so cared for. I feel … frustrated with the process …

Dick mode:

You can’t use feelings to describe how shitty our back of house is. Stop asking me how I feel, and not allowing me to share how I think.

Fake-Zen mode:

The struggle here, I think, is to become a master of applying the tri-factor of being touchy-feely: Sympathy, empathy, and … compassion.

Without being all academic about these terms, the simple idea I have learned is, once you have indulged yourself with the feelings and emotions of others, you then need to figure out what you do about them.

More likely than not, we action without enough empathy (or making others feel cared for and listened to). Or we emotionally drain ourselves (and others) so much that we are crippled to take any meaningful actions.

I find the most effective empathetic leaders are those who choose to do something about the situation using emotions and feelings as key “data points” of their assessment, decisions and actions. The work here is to constantly challenge ourselves to do both, and hope that throughout the journey of life, we will stumble upon the balance.

So next time when you buy organic, maybe also consider just getting whole foods. Or next time you flex your humility, also push yourself to go through the discipline of learning.

Time to check on my vegan porkchops now.

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