With Stephen Hawking’s passing today, we’re talking a lot about some of the lessons we’ve learned from the visionary physicist.
But there’s one lesson that particularly comes to mind, especially for leaders: choose empathy over aggression.
Let’s go back to 2015, during a tour of the Science Museum in London, when Stephen Hawking was asked a simple question: what human shortcoming would you change?
The question came from 24-year-old Adaeze Uyanwah, a teacher from California who had won a trip to London with special celebrity guides – including Hawking. And his answer was somewhat unexpected:
“The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory, or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all. A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race. The quality I would most like to magnify is empathy. It brings us together in a peaceful, loving state.”
This message is one that pretty much every human being should keep in mind. But applied specifically to the workplace, we find it particularly meaningful.
There was a time when the workplace was filled with type-A, alpha, extroverted “takers” climbing the ladder. Those individuals became the managers and leaders, shaping the next generation of workers and innovators.
However, increasingly, that aggressive personality type has less of a place in the modern office. Introverted leaders are proving to be a valuable asset to any team. The importance of being a good listener and communicator – and a caring boss – is echoed across every industry.
So, in honour of one of the greatest minds to ever live, we offer this one crucial management lesson: choose empathy, not aggression. Every single time.
(Image via hawking.org.uk)