Highly sensitive people have many strengths — including empathy and being intuitive — that make them great leaders.
When we hear about the traits of highly sensitive people (HSPs) — things such as heightened intuition, empathy, and depth of processing — we may not necessarily associate these qualities with leadership. In fact, sensitivity is often misinterpreted to mean weakness or being flawed. and the word sensitive can often be frowned upon, or seen as something to hide.
Society often teaches us that leadership is about being extroverted, competitive, and we may also associate it with being overly confident and assertive. If you’re highly sensitive, you may struggle with asserting yourself, displaying confidence, or trusting in your abilities to lead others.
Leadership involves being in a position of authority where others often look to us for advice, counsel, or direction. It can often involve making crucial decisions for an organization, group, or wider society. Nelson Mandela is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of our time; he speaks of the power of those who are willing to take risks and step in their vulnerability. He is quoted as saying, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” This reminds us that there is a huge power behind stepping into our sensitivity and seeing “fragility” as a strength, not as a weakness.
It is a myth that being highly sensitive means you’re not a natural leader. In fact, HSPs have incredible gifts that are not only important, but necessary, to be a leader. Here are eight reasons why being a highly sensitive person means you have the traits to be an incredible leader.
8 Reasons Why Highly Sensitive People Make Great Leaders
1. They’re highly empathetic — they have the ability to know how others are feeling and how to help them
Highly sensitive people are very empathetic. Having empathy and the ability to know the feelings of others is essential as a leader. Those who lack awareness of other people’s experiences can struggle in positions of authority because it is difficult for others to trust them or develop authentic relationships.
Dr. Brené Brown is a widely known educator and advocate of the power of authenticity, vulnerability, and empathy. Her ability to display vulnerability is a perfect example of the way the traits of sensitivity can be utilized as a strength. And cultivating the innate gifts of authenticity and empathy means we can quickly form deep and trusting relationships with others.
2. They’re extremely compassionate and lead from the heart
We are all familiar with leaders who lack — or simply don’t seem to value — compassion. However, the world is in desperate need of compassionate leaders right now! Compassionate leaders, like sensitive people, are those who don’t just consider their own agenda, but they take into account the needs of others and the larger collective.
They also have a desire to reduce the amount of suffering there is in the world, and inspire others to operate from this heart-led space. The Dalai Lama embodies the qualities of a compassionate leader and highlights the potential change that can arise when our choices are led by compassion and wisdom.
3. They’re very reflective — they can see what worked and what didn’t
As a highly sensitive person, you are likely to be very reflective. You’re able to look back on the situation to see what worked, and what didn’t. You can see your mistakes and the flaws of others clearly. This doesn’t mean you’ll overstep the mark by being overly critical toward others — you know that sensitive types don’t respond well to criticism, nor do others. If anything, that criticism will be directed toward yourself!
However, that ability to spot mistakes, combined with wisdom and insight, can lead to the very positive traits of deep reflection and an ability to learn from these mistakes. This is an essential quality as a leader: to be able to transform and evolve.
4. They’re intuitive and have “Spidey senses”
Intuition and the ability to “know” what is really going on in a situation — having “Spidey senses” — rather than what appears to be the case is extremely valuable. In fact, Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, was believed to have been highly sensitive and is quoted as saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”
Your intuition enables you to detect when others are being dishonest or disloyal. You are able to discern when something doesn’t “feel right.” And an ability to trust your intuitive guidance is something that you can develop over time. We are often taught not to trust our intuition or that it’s not a valid way of thinking. However, using your intuition as a leader can be a precious gift.
5. They’re extremely creative and can think outside the box
Creativity is an essential trait as a leader and also one that sensitive people naturally possess: They have an ability to think outside of the box, and find creative solutions to problems. Creativity comes with the ability to think in various ways and perceive a situation from different angles.
As an HSP leader, you might find yourself approaching tasks in a way that isn’t considered “the usual” approach. However, it is your unique and creative mindset that brings fresh insights into a situation. As a leader, your creativity will also inspire others to do the same — to create and bring in their ideas, and collectively, this is how we can bring about change.
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6. They’ll use their emotional awareness to figure out people’s needs
HSP leaders are very in tune with their own emotions and the emotions of others. When navigated in the right way, this emotional awareness is a great strength. It means you’re able to sense what others are feeling and what their needs are.
With this gift, you can help others increase their emotional awareness, and it is through understanding that we can learn tools to regulate our emotions. Knowing what you’re feeling means you can set limits or know when something is “off” balance, enabling you as a leader to be aware of what needs to change.
7. They’re easy to approach, whether someone has a question or a problem
Your intuitive and empathetic nature as a highly sensitive leader means that other people tend to enjoy — and feel comfortable with — confiding in you. They aren’t afraid to ask you questions, as they know they won’t be judged for their problems, insecurities, or mistakes.
These qualities are extremely valuable as a leader, and you’re able to maintain a strong relationship with others. You’re likely to be highly respected for your non-judgmental and empathetic approach to guiding and leading others.
8. They’re great listeners — they actively listen, they don’t just smile and nod
Your ability to listen to others — actively listen — is extremely valuable as a highly sensitive person in a leadership position. This means you easily hold space for what other people are experiencing. You can take on the advice or opinions of others and consider a range of views and ideas!
As a leader, you bring these ideas together, while also respecting, as much as possible, everyone’s perspectives. This is also a reciprocal process, as when others feel listened to and heard, they are also more likely to listen to your views and follow you as a respected leader.
The World Needs More Highly Sensitive Leaders
These eight leadership qualities, which are extremely common in highly sensitive people, are very much needed in the world today. Unfortunately, it is often the leaders who lack the qualities listed here which tend to make it into positions of authority or power.
However, this doesn’t mean that highly sensitive people can’t become successful leaders or step into their authentic power. Stepping into our full potential as sensitive souls is about staying true to our gifts, displaying our authenticity, and bringing our traits to light.
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