Is It Me …or Them?

November 14th, 2022 by Kelly Kienzle

I coach a lot of leaders who struggle with the same question: Do I meet my colleagues where they are and adjust my speech and actions to best support their needs?  Or do I remain constant and true to my own values and beliefs about what a strong leader does?


Interestingly, I find a “both/and” answer to this struggle.  The “both/and” answer is to engage in authentic empathy.

Authentic empathy, as defined by Marshall Goldsmith, is asking yourself the question: “Am I being the person I want to be for the people I am with now?”

I love the elasticity of this answer.  This elasticity allows a leader to indeed meet a colleague where they are, yet the leader can also remain within the spectrum of what she aspires to be as a leader.  She can flex to fit her environment yet also ensure she is remaining within her vision of being a good leader.

In the Moment

Asking ourselves this question, “Am I being the person I want to be for the people I am with now?” is also a way of ensuring we remain in the moment.  We can stay in tune with what the mental and emotional needs are of the people around us.

And we can remain present in ourselves, tuning back in to what and who we want to be right now.  We are in the moment with the other person, while also remaining in the moment of who we are.  Beautiful.

Moments Become Years Which Become a Life

When we can be tuned into the question of who we want to be in this moment, then from moment to moment we can create a year or a lifetime of being present to the needs of others.

Side note: For me, being present moment to moment feels exhausting.  So I’ve reframed it as hour to hour or conversation to conversation.  What increment of time would you choose?  How often would you want to ask yourself this question?

Regardless of the time frame, expressing our empathy in a way that is authentic to who we want to be can ground us.  We can be our own touchstone for showing up, speaking and acting as who we are, while also being aware of the needs of others.

And you?

How about you?  In what conversation or relationship or challenge do you want to use this both/and approach?  When do you want to ask yourself: “Am I being the person I want to be for the people I am with now?”


“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” – Mary Oliver

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