The Best Superpower in Business and Life
With the latest reboot of the venerable Superman franchise set to hit theaters this Friday, it got me thinking about the age old question of, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” I’d like try to settle that question once and for all. Now before you bounce away to some other post thinking this is just some comic fanboy blowing smoke, hear me out. The best superpower in the world is empathy. Why empathy? Why not flight, or invincibility, or super speed? Because empathy is one of the great unifying forces of humanity that has the power to unleash not only the best in yourself, but the best in others as well.
Empathy certainly isn’t the sexiest superpower out there. “Empathy Man” doesn’t really roll off the tongue, and I doubt that narratives about heroes gaining a deeper understanding of their conflicted nemeses while engaging in truly meaningful dialogue would move much copy. However, there really is one powerful argument as to why empathy stands above the rest: empathy is the one superpower within everyone’s grasp. It’s slightly unrealistic to expect that I will be able to shoot lasers from my eyes in my lifetime (hedging my bets there), but it is completely realistic to expect greatness in every one of life’s pursuits if I develop my empathetic superpower. Engaging anyone with a highly trained empathetic response allows desired outcomes to come to fruition faster. It can be disarming, charming, and make you seem downright prescient. You will have the ability to foresee needs, potential biases, roadblocks, and bridges over what might, at first blush, appear to be intractable problems. You will be a communication ninja…err superhero.
Empathy also dictates success in today’s business climate more powerfully than many would imagine. Granted, in the backwash of the Great Recession with Wall Street rising to record heights while too many still haven’t seen any hint of recovery, it’s hard to imagine such a scenario. But I would venture to say that empathy is at the very core of the world’s best companies. It is the North Star by which the most talented and innovative businesses navigate, a moral compass directing all to mutual success. Others with a deeper knowledge of global economics hold similar views. Empathy is a skill which far too few focus on in the ultra-competitive world of 21st century business. What some people might actually construe as a weakness, in reality, is just the opposite when it comes to a highly calibrated sense of empathy. These days there are even new neurological studies being performed on groups of mirror-touch synaesthetes with the sole purpose of discovering what can be learned from these “hyper-empathizers” and applied to the rest of us in our efforts to hone this skill. The empathetic among us will consistently outperform the rest in product development, sales, services, and any other aspect of business due to their sixth sense of human understanding.
Deftly navigating the emotional landscapes of customers, coworkers, partners, investors and family will have them thinking you really are Superman(woman). And who knows, they might be right.