Listening, Empathy, Conceptualization: Characteristics of Servant Leadership

As we have been exploring the concept, principles, and characteristics of Servant Leadership some rather obvious parallels have emerged. During the remainder of this year and into January of 2012 we will explore how these characteristics and principles align. If you are just now joining the conversation you may find it beneficial to take a quick read of our opening exploration of the topic Are you a Servant or a Slave to Your Business  as well as the follow up Servant Leadership: An Evolving Paradigm of Authentic Leadership.

This week we begin with looking at how the characteristics of Listening, Empathy and Conceptualization fulfill the principle of Transformation. You may remember Transformation in this context is a vehicle for personal and institutional growth. At The Inspired Business Center we believe that Authentic Servant Leaders use Listening, Empathy and Conceptualization to help both their people and their organization as they develop new, improved and innovative forms of meeting the needs of all their stakeholders.

As authentic leaders we know that listening can sometimes not be as easy as it sounds. Authentic listening requires us to truly step away from our own notions of what the speaker is trying to convey. I know I have been guilty of forming my response to someone while they were still speaking. I wasn’t listening as much as I was absorbing some of what they said in order to refute their point. Authentic listening requires us to suspend any consideration of a response and allow the deeper meaning behind someone’s words to inform our consciousness. We are being asked to listen for content as well as context. We are being asked to allow the speaker to completely express themselves. Now this does not mean we allow them to ramble on repeating their point or perspective over and over. If we truly believe we understand what they are trying to communicate we can seek clarity and understanding without cutting them short. If we have fully understood their point they will let us know and we can then ask a question or two to gather more information or move to the second characteristic of supporting this transformative experience.

Yes the second step is to use empathy during our response to their communication. This not only conveys that we have been truly listening without trying to make them wrong or simply presenting our perspective but supports and serves the individual in recognizing that we do truly honor their perspective and experiences. Empathy says I have been where you are and I am willing to share what I know about the situation without demanding that what I share is the only way to accomplish the desired results. The very fact that others look to us as leaders implies they expect us to have some direct knowledge or experience of the situation at hand. Empathy says “I have been where you are now.” When we lead from a place of empathy we let our employees to see how we are allowing them to make their own decisions and not just demanding they do what we may have done earlier in our careers. This process allows the employee to experience a greater sense of respect and thus willingness to listen to our perspectives as leaders.

Now we can move to the conceptualization phase. By listen empathizing with a person’s situation, experience and perspective, we can begin to build a new way of dealing with any given situation. We may just be building a new cultural paradigm within the organization. All too often as leaders we are under constant pressure from our stakeholders, or even ourselves to find just the right niche, just the right market, just the right widget or product that will propel the company forward. Naturally, it is assumed that we know the most about the organization or what has worked in the past, as we do have a wealth of past experience, otherwise we wouldn’t have ended up in a leadership position.

This is where servant based leadership becomes incredibly important. You can serve and foster a culture of transformation for the individual and the organization by using the characteristics of listening, empathy and conceptualization. You can allow transformation to become the vehicle by which the organization enters a new paradigm of Servant Leadership. When someone comes to you as a leader with a great idea, a pressing concern or even a sense of failure you can listen deeply, allow yourself to gain a new perspective of the situation, share from the place of empathy and begin to conceptualize a new perspective, new way of handling the situation. You don’t have to tell the employee what to do, how you would do it, or even what worked in the past. You have allowed the process to work on your behalf and together discovered a better way of approaching the situation. How incredibly powerful is that?

Obviously, there is so much more to becoming a Servant Leader or fostering a cultural shift in your organization and we are not suggesting you run out and try to drive this change tomorrow. At The Inspired Business Center we strive to look at all the aspects of an organization and implement the most beneficial ideas slowly, with great care and consideration. What we are asking is that you consider the positive +implications on your life and the life of your organization by allowing the wisdom and intelligence inherent within every employee to be shared throughout the organization. Servant Leadership does just that. It taps into the brain trust you have developed and instills a culture of service to a greater good. That greater good is the profitability and proliferation of your company.

During the coming months we will continue to explore how you can slowly, with great care implement the principles and characteristics of Servant Leadership. If you would like to learn more about this powerful topic just keep reading this blog, or give us a call and we will be happy to discuss the topic with you at greater length. As always, we are here to serve your business and help to create a business culture that works for everyone.

Until next time,




Robert Brzezinski is an expert team member of The Inspired Business Center based in Lakewood Colorado. The Inspired Business Center collaborates with Entrepreneurs and Executives to transform their companies through a balance of practical spirituality, value-centered leadership and consistent profitability. Our team of experts guides clients on a path starting with an articulated, shared stakeholder vision to the results of fulfilling their organization’s purpose, satisfying customers, increasing profit margins and enhancing owner equity. Our approach combines purposeful people, best business practices, and proven systems. You are welcome to more fully explore “Where Spirituality, Leadership and Profitability Meet” by visiting:



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2 Responses to “Listening, Empathy, Conceptualization: Characteristics of Servant Leadership”

  1. edwin rutsch Says:

    May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

  2. Terry Says:

    Thank you for htis very interesting and practical post. Your first stage of authentic listening reminds me of being mindful and present when listening. I this is a key skill leaders need and it takes time to develop and practice.

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