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Practicing Empathetic Leadership

Hi, and a warm welcome to The Human Side of Business Podcast. I’m your host Ange MacCabe. I am pleased to introduce you to Tatyana Mamut, whom is a tech innovator, board member, and keynote speaker.

Tatyana Mamut is a transformative leader in Silicon Valley who drives innovation by understanding customers deeply and leading through empathy. She is a serial entre/intrapreneur, building successful products at Amazon, Salesforce, Nextdoor and IDEO. She is currently SVP of New Products at Pendo leading the creation of the Adopt family of products.

Tatyana has a PhD in cultural anthropology from UC Berkeley and a BA in economics from Amherst College. She is a refugee from eastern Ukraine and comes from three generations of Soviet professional women. She lives with her spouse and two daughters in San Francisco.

In this episode of the Human Side of Business Podcast Tatyana and I discuss what is looks like to practice empathetic leadership and how this approach to leadership impacts teams.

Servant Leadership

Tatyana Mamut: What didn't come so naturally to me, especially as an early leader, was the side of the empathy for the internal organization. Right. Because I always saw, like, when I was younger, I always saw the internal organization as just a means to the end of serving the customer. Right. And I didn't really appreciate how much love a leader needed to put into their actual team and their actual organization. Because what I've learned as a leader is that what doesn't work is trying to tell people what to do. What doesn't work is trying to make yourself put yourself on a pedestal and try to motivate people through this strong personality.

What does work? What I found is that some of those behaviors you can have, but people feel a different energy from you when it comes from an act of love. A lot of people talk about this as Servant leadership.

But what is Servant leadership? It's really about having this perspective that I work for my team. Right. And I am there to really create the environment in which they will flourish.

How Love Translates to the Workplace

Tatyana Mamut: How do you define love in the workplace? What does that actually look like? So, for me, love is an energy. It's the energy that you're bringing to every conversation. It's the energy that you're bringing to every interaction. And it doesn't mean that you're a soft leader and everybody is fine and nobody gets any critical feedback. In fact, love and truth resonate at the same energetic frequency. And so you are not actually loving someone or putting out a love energy when you're trying to hide a difficult reality. It's about being open, honest, transparent, right? And do it in a way where you are opening yourself and inviting this exchange with the other person from a place of true caring, of trying to accomplish something together.

Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Tatyana Mamut: I believe and what I do on my teams is that psychological safety means that everyone feels safe to speak their truth and to point out and challenge each other, no matter who is being challenged. I think any leader who is not comfortable with being publicly criticized by the most junior members of their team is not really understanding the point of psychological safety. Psychological safety means that everyone feels safe to challenge anyone else.

The Function of a Leader

Tatyana Mamut: Many people think that they have the right information and that they are smarter than the leader. I think tech reads this right because in tech a lot of people think that experience doesn't matter very much. It's like young people who can figure things out and hack their way to things and we can talk about that another time. But the point is a lot of people, like the people from marketing will be certain that we should do this and then the people from engineering are certain that we should do this and then the people from another team, like customer success are absolutely certain we should do this. And one of the things that as the captain of the ship that you have to help explain to people.

It's not because we don't love your customer that you're seeing. I believe that you are seeing what you're seeing. I believe everything that you're saying and the things that the other functions are seeing are equally valid. And we need to learn how to connect and bridge those gaps. And my job as a leader is to take in all of those inputs and steer the ship in one direction because the ship cannot go in four different directions.

For more leadership insights check out my blog: 5 Questions To Ask Yourself To Become A Better Leader


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