Empathy is very important to bring a different perspective to the workplace. If you make the workplace feel cold and impersonal, you miss out on people bringing their best to the workplace. You don’t have to get overly personal, but understanding others emotions and navigating them can help motivate and get the best out of each person. I do things like giving people the day off when they’re having mental health struggles or adjusting workloads or deadlines when stress is high.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jarir Mallah.

Jarir is the HR Specialist for Ling, a tech startup based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he is responsible for sourcing and recruiting talent to one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Asia. Prior to his career at Ling, Jarir spent several years in the financial services industry building an effective product marketing team as well as a stint in the non-profit sector building marketing operations. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Gonzaga University.

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Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

A former manager and mentor of mine, Natalie, taught me first hand that leading with empathy and compassion was the most effective way to lead. Even more importantly, she taught me that managing someone goes beyond work; that personal development should be the goal of a good manager. Good results will naturally follow for you and your team. She continues to be a mentor to this day and I’m happy to call her a friend.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

The greatest mistake leaders make, and one I’ve been guilty of myself, is assuming the same approach works for everyone. It doesn’t. You have to understand the needs of each individual to know how to lead them.

With a former employee, I didn’t provide enough guidance or direction and the end result was they never reached their full potential. Eventually they left the company which was unfortunate. They were a good employee, but I didn’t create the right environment for them to thrive.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

I used to view leadership in a very narrow-minded way, just being a resource for your employees and focusing on results and output. My approach was all numbers and lacked a human quality, but I feel like that was the era I grew up in and was supposed to emulate.

Now I understand being a leader means leading by example. It’s a must to demonstrate the qualities you want from your team. Show that you care about your employees as people rather than a number. Promote their advancement even if that means they’re no longer a part of your team. Create a balance between giving them space to grow and providing guidance when needed.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

I used to try and control outcomes through management. I provided too much oversight and direction to my employees that limited their ability to shine and provide their unique input on our work. In essence, I was a micromanager.

Today, I know that to truly encourage the healthiest work environment and produce the best outcomes, you have to give the freedom to your employees to branch out. That may lead to failures or setbacks along the way, but it will pay dividends through a team that grows together and reaches their full potential.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Delegation. You’ve got to use this skill to empower your team and give yourself a break. Micromanaging won’t get you anywhere. It will also give your employees a chance to shine and for you to see them in new ways.

I prefer to use a slightly different form of delegation where sometimes I take on work that I don’t typically don’t do to give my employees a chance to do work they typically don’t have the chance to do. It’s sort of like a ’take a walk in my shoes’ ethos and it can work really well. I’ve seen it curate a stronger team environment by giving new and challenging opportunities to your team and allowing everyone to see into each other’s roles in the workplace. It can be quite eye opening!

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

In any industry, adapting to the current marketplace is key for success. Just as a manager expects their employees to gain new skills, so too should leadership. Adapting to an ever changing workforce is an absolute necessity. Here are some changes that are influencing workplaces today:

  • Workers today need to feel empowered.
  • Workers want stronger relationships at work.
  • Mental health is becoming a key focus globally.
  • Motivations that drove the workforce of the previous generation are no longer relevant.

Two easy things to catch up with these changes. My first recommendation is to utilize your network. Discuss how other executives or leaders have or plan to implement adaptations to meet the demands of the workforce. Secondly, they say all great leaders are well-read. Grab a book on the subject matter and have a read. Don’t forget to take notes!

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

Show that you care about your employees beyond the bottom line. Be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes when dealing with issues. Set the tone for how you want to manage people early on and be consistent. For example, hold a group or individual meetings with your employees to talk about your work relationship and guidelines and expectations. Hold yourself and your employees accountable to those standards.

Also of importance, is to learn how to have difficult conversations and address issues early. Think beyond leading people for the success of your current company — enable people to reach their full potential even if that leads them to another company or role.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Self-awareness

In order to be an effective leader, you have to be self-aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. I’m not a strong motivator in a group setting. I don’t have the energy or outgoing personality to be able to provide a motivating speech to a group. But I am able to connect with people in a one-on-one situation and provide feedback. So I have fewer large team meetings and focus more on one-on-one discussions with my employees to provide guidance and motivation.

2. Empathy

Empathy is very important to bring a different perspective to the workplace. If you make the workplace feel cold and impersonal, you miss out on people bringing their best to the workplace. You don’t have to get overly personal, but understanding others emotions and navigating them can help motivate and get the best out of each person. I do things like giving people the day off when they’re having mental health struggles or adjusting workloads or deadlines when stress is high.

3. Accountability

Holding yourself and others accountable is crucial in a team environment. You want everyone to feel they are a part of something and everyone is pulling their weight. Leaders are required to uphold these standards. This is maybe the most difficult, but important, trait to uphold because it can require difficult conversations or self-reflection.

4. Adaptability

Sticking with old habits because they were successful in the past is a recipe for disaster in both running a business and leading others. The needs of people change. The needs of the general workforce has significantly shifted from those of the last generation. When I first got into a leadership position, mental health was not as much of a social conversation as it is today. I had to listen to these conversations and adapt my leadership style to reflect this shift.

5. Transparency

Being open and honest creates an environment that fosters creativity, risk-taking, and motivation. Transparency is crucial in creating trust within your team. The workplace is shifting towards more open conversations about growth, issues, salary, and so much more. I have learned to be as open and honest as I possibly can during meetings with my employees to create a less-hierarchical environment that embodies a true team feeling.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

I will provide another John Wooden quote to start: “Success is never final, failure is never fatal, and it’s courage that counts”. I try to embody the mentality of always learning and growing, not only at work, but in every aspect of my life.

Taking advantage of each day as an opportunity to showcase the culmination of my previous knowledge and experience and being open to the unknown that I’m likely to encounter to make my next day even better. You may not recognize the change in a day-to-day situation, but over time you will see the growth in yourself if you embody this mindset.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I want to be a leader who is known for caring about the people that I work with. Work accomplishments are a by-product of that, but that’s not what I want my legacy to be about. Someone that empowered people to be the best versions of themselves and accomplish their personal goals and career path is how I’d like people to recall me as.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

I can be reached via email at [email protected] or through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/jmallah/). You can see my teams’ accomplishments on Ling App (https://ling-app.com) as well.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!