Last week in an interesting conversation, an upper manager of my division at work, I was asked, "What are you bad at?" Taken out of context, this question seems rather strange. To be honest, I can't remember the catalyst but just that after much digression we landed at this point. I almost instantaneously answered, "Physically, I am very poorly coordinated," as though that is relevant to my job at a bank. After a chuckle from my superior, I followed up with, "I'm not great at talking about my emotions." This statement seemed to intrigue him and he asked, "On personality inventories, do you score highly on empathy?" Again, I rambled about how I compartmentalize my life and while I have no sympathy for criers at work, I can just as easily lose it watching a movie in the comfort of my own pajamas. He went on to mention that a signal of successful leaders is a low index of empathy. This seemed counterintuitive, but he claimed that many leaders who score high on empathy are those caught in ethical dilemmas.
As I read Chapter 2 of our psychology textbook, I felt as though it was warning me of faults of the human psyche, like heuristics. The idea that leadership consists of empathy, as a means to relate to the human emotions of others seems fitting; however, it is this same ability to connect that allows said individuals to justify questionable actions. Keeping in mind heuristics and biases outlined in Chapter 2, is the trait of empathy is important to leadership?