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The Soulful Leader: How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity

The Soulful Leader: Learning How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity. 

 

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

Introduction

Resume virtue vs. eulogy virtues

Our society emphasizes achievement, appearance and possessions to the exclusion of developing character, integrity, and service to others. Research studies indicate that one out of every five leaders is toxic; some studies indicate it is closer to three out of every ten. The Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that 65.6 million U.S. workers were affected by bullying. Of those affected 61% left their jobs. 75% of American workers have been affected by bullying either as bystanders or directly.                                                                  Partly due to this environment many corporate leaders we have treated and consulted with have come to believe they need to make a choice between health, ethics and success. It is a myth that wealth and success must exclude fine character and exceptional interpersonal skills. Love and achievement are not opposites. When we know how to love, how to express compassion and kindness we establish the most powerful foundation for achievement. We go into the work world with a neurochemical balance that makes us more resilient, more creative and more able to negotiate our way through conflict to resolution. A simple human interaction can change our brain chemistry for the better. When we know how to produce calming neurochemicals we automatically reduce stress in our lives while increasing happiness. Happy people, filled with the positive neurochemicals positive relating releases, perform better and more creatively. Our goal is to teach personnel and clients to produce these positive brain changes naturally.

The Harvard Business school studies have indicated that EQ is three times more valuable than IQ for success in the business world. Other studies conducted at UC Berkeley found that compassion and empathy decrease as feelings of entitlement and self-absorption increase. Households that earned $50,000 to $75,000 gave 7.6% of their income; those who made $100,000 or more gave 4.2% to charity, in zip codes where more than 40% of people made $200,000 or more a year, the average rate of giving was a paltry 2.8%. (6 studies on how money affects the mind, 12/20/13, TEDBlog). Brain scans have shown that the wealthy consistently display less empathy; poor people are more attuned to the nuances of relationships out of necessity.

So if empathic leaders are most effective in the corporate world empathy should be correlated with wealth and more importantly empathy has also been proven to be correlated with good health. When we receive and give empathy we produce the near miracle neurochemical oxytocin, which reduces anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol. It also helps us live longer, aids in recovery from illness and injury, promotes a sense of calm and well-being, increases generosity and empathy, protects against heart disease, modulates inflammation, reduces cravings for addictive substances, creates bonding and an increase in trust of others (critical to establishing confidence with clients), decreases fear and creates a feeling of security and makes people open to give and receive love. The wealthy apparently are unaware of the physiological benefits of empathy or they just don’t value empathy or know how to develop and express this innate capacity.

 

Eulogy Virtues

 

Years ago empathy, compassion, and high-level interpersonal skills were viewed as soft skills not necessary for personal and professional success. If wealth alone made people happy clinical psychologists would be out of business as we encounter wealthy, unhappy, unhealthy individuals daily. In our consultations with corporations we consistently encounter depleted personnel who are excelling financially but have little idea as to what is interfering with experiencing happiness and their ability to sustain intimacy in their marriages, with their children and with friends. We often ask individuals to contemplate what people will say at their funeral and how those comments relate to what is stated in their resumes. Many accomplished, wealthy individuals can describe what they have done in their lives but when it comes describing who they are, and what they have meant to other people the responses typically become more vague. Regardless of our societal emphasis on status and image in the end if we are not comfortable in our own skin, if we have not learned how to gain the respect of others, not just for what we provide but for who we are. we have failed in life. If we fail at love of self and others we fail at life.

 

Changing the Culture to Integrative Success

Effective organizational change requires an inside out process. For instance if the financial advisors in a wealth management company are increasing their interpersonal skills along with executives they will feel happier and more confident to establish relationships with a diverse group of clients. Clients will sense this change; our nervous systems talk to each other, we intuitively sense authenticity, which results in trust and faith in an ongoing relationship with a firm when present. FA’s will find it easier to create trusting relationships, and with our services they will be able to offer clients and their family’s unique opportunities to learn interpersonal skills that will enhance their lives in very significant ways. Clients will be more willing to participate when their advisors believe in the process, inward-outward change.

A study published this year examining the long-term stock performance of companies that had won the Corporate Health Achievement Award, an annual prize that the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has bestowed since 1996. In each case portfolios of winning companies substantially outperformed the returns of the S&P from 2001 to 2014—often by 200 percentage points or more.

Companies with very healthful cultures accumulated many quantifiable benefits as well. A significant amount of evidence gathered by professor John Quelch of the Harvard Business School suggests that they may have lower healthcare costs overall, less absenteeism, better employee retention, fewer workplace injuries, stronger growth, improved corporate reputations, and greater stock performance.

Lady Geek, a consultant company based in London rates companies across the globe for the degree of empathy present in their corporate culture. There is a clear correlation between empathy and financial success.

Interestingly U.S. banks are capitalizing on the benefits of empathy with their clients, scoring 50% higher than banks in the UK.

Research by the London group indicates that businesses are more productive and profitable when leaders act ethically and interact with staff and clients in considerate ways. The top 10 companies in the most recent Lady Geek Global Empathy Index 2015 increased their value more than twice as those companies rated in the bottom 10. They also generated 50% more earnings. The top 10 companies increased 6% this year, while the bottom 10 companies dropped 9%.

Harvard Review, 11/27/15, Belinda Parmar

 

The Soulful Leader

  What makes up the soul? Soul, is that intangible, invisible part of every human being that yearns for attachment to something deeper and broader than ourselves. A person who is soulful lives with purpose and a desire to be of service. He or she is not primarily motivated by status or image but has a natural interest in teasing out the potential of a family, community, corporation, community and nation. Soulful people lead with great passion, they are intimately aware of the structure of their organization. They are interested in motivating from the bottom up, not from the top down. They know who cleans their office, who mowes the lawn, who fixes their computers, who serves the food, who are the secretaries and the receptionists. They speak to everyone, no one person is seen as less valuable in the larger sphere than anyone else. Soulful people tend to lead balanced lives, they work with intensity, they play with intensity, but they know how to turn the dial down and enjoy life. They have an inherent love of young people, they love to educate, to witness the blossoming of young talent, whether it be their own children or the beginners in their businesses. They are the voice of reason in the face of conflict; they are not quick reactors but thoughtful contributors. They know how to listen as they are genuinely interested in understanding not only those like them but also those who on the surface seem different, they are known for finding the common ground.

They take in information from diverse sources. They expect to continue to gain information about themselves, their world and the human condition throughout life. They expect to revise theories and change perspectives as as new learning takes place. They are not wedded to one way of thinking, one way of being or one way of leading. They realize and willingly accept that in order to live a healthy, high-achieving life they must adapt to change, as they will be constantly faced with new situations that require that they adjust and change.

They live their lives with an open heart and an open mind.

 

Authenticity, Wealth and Performance

As we mentioned earlier many in the corporate world have come to believe that they have to sacrifice ethics and integrity for wealth and status. However credible research has proven that when we live authentically we create an inner calm that is sensed by others, allowing us to actualize our potential by freeing up energy from the stress of pretending. Leaders who are authentic are attractive to others, they relax those who work for their and their clients as the need to be on guard lessens, freeing people up to make mistakes and participate without the worry of being graded punitively. Authentic leaders cause positive brain changes in themselves and others, creating a high spirited atmosphere that leads to higher production, more creative performance and revenues rise accordingly.

Authenticity relaxes clients as it breeds’ trust and lessens the idea that FA’s have ulterior motives and simply want to make money at their expense.  Rather than anticipating a sales process they experience a competent individual who is also humble and willing to listen to the needs and concerns of the clients before him or her.

 

The Inspired Actions of a Soulful Leader

  A leader who thinks, acts and behaves in a soulful manner inspires others to do the same. Our nervous systems talk to each other, a simple human interaction changes brain chemistry, and several empathic interactions change the brain chemistry of an organization. We all remember how the negative of one parent could dominate the feelings of everyone in our homes. A leader has the attention of everyone; he or she is watched closely. As people sense arrogance, dismissal, poor interpersonal skills, lack of compassion, and most importantly lack of integrity the spirit of an organization suffers dramatically. Soulful act from the inside out, they touch a special within that exudes a purity of intention and genuine concern for the mission statement of the business they run.

When we have consulted to corporations we notice as leaders adopt this perspective, not only through understanding but through actions employees follow in suit. Why? Because all human feel better when we relate in compassionate, mindful ways. We change our brains, which makes us happier and more creative. Creativity as a part of successful strategizing increases as behavior becomes more authentic and growth promoting.  We become change agents, teasing out the potential of an entire group or organization.

 

Sustaining Soulful Leadership 

   What is highlighting in this paper is not a short-term proposition. I propose that it will only become an integral part of an organization if there are qualified clinical psychologists in-house to provide on-going coaching of the highest caliber to engage corporate members in the process outlined. The goal is to develop an organization of soulful leaders. This could never be attained by periodic workshops or lectures. The change of the soul is an in-depth change, lasting positive re-organization of the heart that will translate to increased contentment and financial success of the companies ,communities and countries that employ these well-researched methods.

 

 

 

What The World Needs Now……………..

I am a clinical psychologist in private practice and I see a diverse group of clients every week. Most of my clients are not mentally ill but are highly stressed by how they respond to the world we all currently live in.  It is inevitable that people raise the question of politics in my individual, family, marital and group therapy sessions.

Politicians tell us that we have a binary choice to make, many feel it is between a candidate who lies versus one with an apparent personality disorder. Our future they say is the hands of one of these individuals.

I vehemently disagree. Our societal troubles are far deeper than these two individuals.  We know that Americans have fewer friends, trust less, while empathy for others has decreased. Let’s bring this political dilemma down to an individual dilemma.

Do you lie? Do you blame others when you make a mistake? Do you become overly defensive when questioned if someone is being critical? Do you slander your colleagues, friends, spouses, relatives and most importantly your children if they disagree with you? Do you value achievement more than integrity? Do you value appearance more than character?  These are all the questions this election has brought to the forefront. It is not just about electing a leader. It is about YOU being a leader. A leader in ever interaction you have.  It is about communicating with tact, honestly and most importantly with empathy.

Empathy is a capacity we are born with. It is the ability to understand and respond to the unique experiences of another. It is different than sympathy. Sympathy rushes in to console, it is immediate, reactive, based on our previous experiences. Empathy, in contrast, takes time to gather the facts, no sound bites, only the gathering of truthful facts. No assumptions like “he’s Muslim, she’s Christian, he’s Jewish, she’s an atheist” therefore we know all about them.  Empathy is part of our genetic endowment, but if it is not practiced it atrophies like an unused muscle. Our world, with terrorism, bigotry, hatred, and mounting attempts to segregate one kind of individual or one country from another is in critical need of an expansion of empathy.  When we open our eyes and expand our view we not only become a change agent, we produce chemicals that make us live longer and happier. Stress produces the opposite; the stress hormone cortisol reduces empathy and creates biased, black and white thinking.

We cannot afford, in these crucial times, to continue with pessimism and helplessness. YOU can make a difference, right now, this moment. Don’t wait for politicians to be the leaders of the change, you are the CHANGE, we are the CHANGE.

Bottom line-all human beings want two things-to be loved and respected. Take either away or deprive a person of both and conflict results. When we slow down, calm ourselves and truly try to understand each other we find that beyond race, religion, country and culture we all are more alike than we ever realized. Beyond the surface of every human being we find ourselves, and that is our connection to humanity.

Human beings, all human beings, possess goodness. Empathy uncovers our true self, lying and slander covers over goodness like a circle of clouds on a dreary day.  Our world is not dreary, it is filled with good people but each one of us has to work to uncover the goodness in each other to survive with hope and happiness. Develop your empathic capacity and you will feel alive, free and connected to the world with hope and renewed energy. We need an empathy movement more than a political movement.

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D.

Author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience.

 

The Performance Addicted Professional: How a lack of Empathy can deteriorate Work, Love and Self-Care Effectiveness

Read my latest article
“The Performance Addicted Professional: How a lack of Empathy can deteriorate Work, Love, and Self Care Effectiveness” at http://www.soundmindz.org/​expert-articles/

A Crisis of Goodness in America

No society could survive—let alone thrive—without maintaining a minimum level of goodness. Unfortunately, there is evidence of a crisis of goodness, at least in the heavily industrialized and digitized West. We live in an egotistic moment in history where we seem unable to effectively train our children in restraint; where narcissism and entitlement are rampant and concern for social approval is at a record low; and where stress and anonymity are pervasive and deeply problematic .Our current culture has been chasing the elusive pursuit of happiness to no avail. We are the most affluent culture in the world and yet according to The World Health Organization have the highest rating of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and overall stress. 43% of American adults suffer from the adverse effects of stress, with the cost of anxiety disorders to our society estimated at 42.3 Billion dollars. Our collective mood is worsening despite five decades of becoming “better off”.  According to the World Happiness Survey Bangladesh is the happiest nation in the world with the United States sadly ranked 46th. The findings of University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, director of the World Values Survey, indicate that overall happiness is related to benevolence and expressions of gratitude, while also being factors that possibly extend life. Other sources tell us that we have one third fewer close friends than 20 years ago and Americans trust in their fellow citizens has dropped 15% in the past 15 years.

These indicators of course do not amount to an entire picture of today’s state of goodness in the U.S., but they are proof of a malaise. Quite simply, we suffer from a deficit of goodness. In our egocentric and narcissistic society feelings of entitlement thrive and the disregard for other people’s claim to comfort and contentment is endemic. A recent study at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that college students today are 40% less empathic than they were in 1979, the largest decline coming in the last decade. It is all too commonplace for stress, anonymity or both to contribute to verbal and physical violence at home, on the roads, and at work. The quality of life in the schools has reached a point that news of rampant bullying finds us inured. It takes a bullied youngster taking his or her life to make us pay attention and express some dismay and consternation. Not only can on line verbal exchanges be dismally mean-spirited, the web’s low interaction standards are spilling over into the off line world. But there is hope: within this bleak landscape we perceive encouraging signs of a counter-tendency. A movement of rediscovery of goodness has begun in the United States. Today’s crisis of goodness is what prompted me to start the goodness renaissance project. http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Goodness-Renaissance-Project/104778329611615

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.

The Recent Fall of Professional Athletes

Andre Agasssi’s open admissions, Tiger’s transgressions and now the tragic death of pro football player Chris Henry have rocked the sports world. We in America tend to idealize are sports hero’s and assign them personal attributes that have nothing to do with their athletic prowess.

I have not had any personal contact with any of these athletes so please appreciate I am generalizing to make a point of how we tend to idealize performance and extend its meaning, especially performance in the world of celebebrities.

Many in our culture are afflicted with what I call Performance Addiction – the belief that perfecting appearance and attaining status will win love and respect. This belief system is hardwired early in life and reinforced by our culture, one that places enormous value on achievement, if not over-achievement.

We then mistakenly feel surprised when we realize those who are able to perform on the highest levels, achieve what few only dream of, are not particularly balanced and may have a fragile sense of self.

It seems impossible that such high achievers can be so troubled internally and ultimately turn to drugs, sexual addictions and impulsive behavior. We have bought into the common belief that if you achieve and perform with excellence everything else will fall into place.

I have worked with professional athletes, media celebrities, lawyers, doctors and Ph.D. scientists who didn’t know the first thing of how to establish and maintain an intimate relationship. Although they excel in a narrow aspect of their worlds it certainly doesn’t mean they possess the interpersonal abilities necessary for personal success. They often choose love partners who idealize them for their notoriety and status rather than who they are, a superficial love based on the exterior social self. This tendency completely underestimates the necessary interior character qualities that deepen love.

I never met Chris Henry but his death is yet another example of a young life ended due to apparent love gone badly. From this point on in your life work hard to discover the interpersonal abilities you need to acquire and foster what we all want- lasting love based on who we are not just on what we do. In the weeks to follow I will do my best to highlight the skills necessary for personal and professional success that are tested and true, not based on surface talents that will not allow you to experience the depth of true love.

We are met to love and connect, when it happens and endures it allows us to go out into the world and achieve for the right reasons, our potential is unleashed as we feel the support of those who truly know us and value our character. Were free to achieve without the obsessive fear of failure, if we don’t meet our expectations we still have the love in our life because it’s not based solely on what we do. This is truly a liberating experience!

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