Leadership Series: (11) Relational Sensitive. By Victor A. Imhangbe

Being sensitive has often been misused and poorly understood concept. Some people tend to describe it as a sign of weak mind-set, or someone that responds to workplace conflict with neurotic anxiety. The term sensitive is often disparaging, suggesting that a person is irrationally worried about what other people think of him or her. Leaders who display modesty in particular have developed a heightened sensitivity to the feelings of others. Great leaders are very good at understanding the complex needs of their subordinates and how to facilitate a setting that can engage others’ utmost effort. But in order to do this effectively, they themselves must be acutely sensitive.

Conversely, subordinates at workplace today are much more aware of whether or not they are a good fit in their work philosophy and they want their leaders to be more mindful of their needs. Overall, employees has become more sensitive about how to best co-exist in a workplace environment that allows them to be who they naturally are.   They are often tired of playing games and just want to be themselves.

Consequently, they are handling their careers and looking to advance by searching for jobs that truly suit their passion, accomplish their desires, and ignite their real ability. Recent global economic activities have made the career management transition more challenging. In addition to career advancement opportunities, employees want their supervisors and leaders to be more in touch with who they are as people (not just as their colleagues), but to be assure that their career track is in suitable alignment with and  supports their personal and professional goals.

In realities, leaders are found to concentrate more on how to remain relevant for their own personal gain that they have forgotten to be more sensitive about how to best satisfy their employees, i.e. the people who help to facilitate their success. At the end, leaders become more valuable when they can prove to increase productivity, worker engagement and results by creating a teamwork environment that gets the best performance from everybody.   This enhances leaders to be strong mentors as well as given the necessary support to help their colleagues better navigate workplace opportunities and propel their careers.

Outside the conventional leadership roles and responsibilities, today’s workplace uncertainty requires leaders to be much more sensitive about what matters most to their workforces.  The erroneous impression by most leaders is to assume that their colleagues have the same drive to succeed and willingness to sacrifice in order to advance as they do.   Everyone is different and leaders must be more mindful to embrace those differences and strategically leverage them to create and sustain unique opportunities within their departments and for the business.

Benefits to be an emotionally sensitive leader

Highly sensitive people according to John Hughes; are people with high sensory processing sensitivity, which means they’re more impacted by sensory information. As opine by John, it does not necessarily mean only Highly Sensitive Persons can lead teams, or that others can’t lead well. Not at all, his position is that HSPs have inborn abilities that allow them to lead people in a uniquely richer and deeper way. He went further to provide the below three specific abilities that enable HSPs to be uniquely effective as leaders:

1 The Subtleties: HSPs soak in everything happening around them, especially the subtleties that others tend to miss. HSPs live in a world of constant sensory bombardment. Words, Conversations, Non-verbal cues, Movement, Sounds, Smells, and Emotions. It all gets taken in. Although we can easily become overwhelmed at times and feel forced to withdraw to the background or even leave a situation, taking in environmental subtleties is invaluable leadership ability. They filter and process this input, determining what is valuable and useful for that moment, and save the rest for later.

The leader that doesn’t miss much, especially the non-verbal and emotional state of a team, is better able to coach, make adjustments, and stress critical points in communication back out to the team. HSPs are better equipped to lead because they are in-touch emotionally with their team.

2 Processing over action: HSPs naturally prefer to process input they’ve taken in versus taking action and speaking. We are more likely to fade to the background in meetings, preferring instead to listen, observe, and process, versus jumping into the mix early and often and unwittingly control a discussion or shut others down. Team members feel more valued as they are allowed to speak and contribute freely, without the prospect of being shut down by an over-anxious leader eager to push their own ideas or move their agenda forward. HSPs are better equipped to lead because they naturally fall to the background, allowing team members to freely speak and share and shine.

3 Resonance: Resonant leadership (from Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., in his book Primal Leadership) is simply the ability to soak in all that a team is communicating and feeling about a situation (some verbal, but most all is non-verbal and emotional), and then being able to lead from a position of understanding and empathy.

Resonant leaders seem to say and do the right thing at just the right time. This isn’t luck or magic, it’s their innate ability to feel deeply, process richly, and patiently consider the right words and actions for the moment.

So next time someone criticises you for being too sensitive or tells you to toughen up, just remember that you have plenty of amazing qualities that are tied to your sensitivity. Instead of beating yourself up for being too sensitive, focus on cultivating your empathy and creativity because those are tremendous assets and you can use them to do amazing things for yourself and help your immediate environment.

People with high credibility know how to ask questions about our values and interests, to listen intently and with empathy, and to pull people together.  These are the people with high emotional intelligence to balance the arrogance sometimes comes with high expertise.

Jay Conger, an expert on persuasion, puts it this way:

On the relationship side, people with high credibility have demonstrated; again, usually over time; that they can be trusted to listen and to work in the best interests of others.  They have also consistently shown strong emotional character and integrity; that is, they are not known for mood extremes or inconsistent performance.  Indeed, people who are known to be honest, steady, and reliable have an edge when going into any persuasion situation.  Because their relationships are robust, they are more apt to be given the benefit of the doubt.

A person develops a track record in relationships in the same way he develops a track record in performance.  If you are known for building commitment and cooperation, for being level-headed and fair, everyone will want you on their team.

Those who have the most perceived credibility are usually the ones who are relationally sensitive.

To boost your credibility on this element, take the following actions:

  • Demonstrate willingness to learn from others and from your own mistakes
  • Demonstrate concern for others’ values, goals, and objectives
  • Cultivate the ability to listen well
  • Take time to build relationships with informal conversations
  • Don’t say something behind a person’s back that you wouldn’t say to his face
  • Be generous with credit to colleagues and subordinates
  • Take time to understand another’s point of view before refuting or rejecting it.

The emotionally sensitive are inquisitive, self-motivated, visionary, risk taking, always in motion, lively, self-accepting, adaptive, reflective, specialists at identifying patters, devoted to learning, collaborative, articulate, resilient and persevering. If you are fortunate to have them as leaders, your establishment will definitely cut above the rest.

From the above, we understand highly sensitive leader are people with high sensory processing sensitivity, which means they’re more impacted by sensory information and they have inborn abilities that allow them to lead people in a uniquely richer and deeper way. In our next series, we shall be looking into the fifth element of credibility which is labability; as one of the major feature of a leader. Your opinion and feedback is expected on the comment column. Do you like the piece? Kindly share.


Victor Imhangbe

Hey, there! I am Victor Imhangbe and I am the brain behind this great lifestyle blog where you get to read everything from life to education to fashion and pretty much about everything else. I invite you to keep keeping tab on our latest news and updates!

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