Hey Leaders: People Are People

Empathy and Compassion

It’s important to see that people are people. Sounds like an easy concept, doesn’t it?

But it’s not!

On Leadership And Empathy

Viewing people as people means that we understand that others have feelings, we care for them, and we understand that they have needs. When you feel great about your relationships, you intuitively know these things, don’t you?

Your wife has feelings, you love her with all your heart, and you do what you can to meet her needs. You take out the trash like you’re supposed to, you buy flowers for her birthday… you pour yourself into her. It’s pretty obvious that you truly do see her as a special person.

So the other day on your way to work, how did you look at the guy who cut you off in traffic? Chances are pretty good that he may have been on the receiving end of your horn, a selective finger or two, and a few choice four-letter words.

Did you see him as a person? I doubt it.

I bet that you saw him:

  • As an obstacle to what you had to do for the day
  • As a jerk
  • As an idiot
  • As as a danger
  • As anything but a person who has feelings, issues, troubles, and needs, didn’t you?

It’s ok to admit it… it happens to me too.

The reality is that we see the people closest to us as the special people that they are.  But the people that we don’t necessarily have a tie to can become just a “thing” in our minds. Other people tend to become a tool that we measure whether they are helping us achieving our goals, preventing us from achieving our goals, or just noise in the background.

However, these “things” are special people with their own set of issues, feelings, and agendas.

What Are Their Intentions?

What if you knew that man who cut you off was rushing to see his wife in the hospital because she was in a serious accident? Would that change your mind about him cutting you off? Maybe you would have even let him go? You see, we all have our own agendas near and dear to our hearts, but we tend to forget that other people do too.

We will often view people based on how they fit our agenda – if they fit, then we care for them; if they don’t, they’re just getting in our way.

We are all guilty of judging people by their actions and not by their intentions. Those actions can hurt us or let us down. However, we tend to judge ourselves based on our intentions. How many times have you said, “I didn’t mean to do that. What I was trying to do was…”?

If we truly want to be judged by our intentions, we have to start judging others by theirs.

 No One is “Below” You

We are also guilty of fitting people into some sort of an importance hierarchy. Depending on where we see ourselves, our hierarchy may look something like this:

Level 7: The President
Level 6: Me
Level 5: Executives
Level 4: Clerks and assistants
Level 3: Those pesky teenagers in the neighborhood
Level 2: Labor workers
Level 1: The homeless

It seems somewhat absurd when it’s written out that way, doesn’t it? But I know that I’m not the only one that has looked at people with this in my heart. This is exactly what happens when we look at people as “things” in our lives or pieces that fit our agendas.

No one is below you! And, for that matter, no one is above you!

Every single person on that list is a person. There is not a single one on that list that deserves to be placed in the box that we’ve put them in.

It’s About What’s in Your Heart

What is in your heart is what determines how you will see the people around you. If you truly love people, you will naturally see them on a level playing field with yourself, no matter where they may fall in someone else’s pecking order.

  • Their job doesn’t matter
  • Their income doesn’t matter
  • Their looks don’t matter

But what does matter is that they are people. They are just as special as you are, with their own talents and treasures to offer the world. Having the compassion to see people as they really are can make the difference between being a leader of people and just being productive with your own to-do list.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Rich Bishop
Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He takes a hands-on approach to your Development through Coaching & Training
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. kwalitisme on June 13, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Reblogged this on kwalitisme.

  2. cranstonholden on June 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    It’s never a test of someone else’s character. It’s always a test of your character.

  3. Carol Thompson on June 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Agreee with a lot. Empathy is however a response due to some similar connection of previous experience or feeling. What do you do when you simply can’t relate to someone else and they know it? Of course, find a way to be respectful! And using a system that elevates your ability to work with someone even when you inherently approach life in a polar opposite means, can be valuable to foster that understanding and connection.
    Good beginning to understanding article…next steps for full on engagement. http://thompsoncj.wordpress.com/

  4. Dr. Scott Simmerman on June 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Yes, people are people. And supervisors are people, too. Seems we spend tons of money on leadership development and training and those kinds of things and what is left undone is that interface between the worker people and the supervisor people — it is why engagement sucks. As many people are actively DIS-engaged in the workplaces of the world as are engaged.

    Nuts. We have been talking about solutions forever — I picked up a 1982 Management Review that is all over this.

    So, one asks why we keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. People are somewhat important to business success. Why can’t we manage ALL of them more effectively?



    • Rich Bishop on June 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      I believe we will always have disconnects between supervisors and workers. We can spend all the money in the world for their development, but it still comes down to what is in their heart. You can’t teach anyone to care about someone. You can foster relationships, but it still comes down to their ability and desire to connect with their people.

  5. my2twobits on June 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    It’s about what’s in your heart. 100 % agreement to that.