Navigating Authenticity and Empathy: Lessons from the Enchanted Wood

Navigating Authenticity and Empathy: Lessons from the Enchanted Wood

Once upon a time, a hare named Ishi and a leader beaver named Honcho lived in the Enchanted Wood. One morning, Ishi was discussing with the group a plan for gathering berries from the east and west groves, when he mistakenly mixed them up.

One of his peers noticed the mistake and called out the correct procedure. Ishi thanked him and was about to proceed when Honcho stopped him mid-hop and bellowed: “You have erred!” and subjected him to a harsh lecture in front of the forest crew. Ishi’s ears drooped lower with each barb, while Honcho challenged his competence publicly, shaking his confidence. Unfairly. (SCARF, Rock 2018)

The hare later approached the leader and said, “I mean no disrespect, but I can’t tolerate being treated like that, especially so publicly. It wilts my spirit and undermines my confidence.” But Honcho was adamant. “I was doing you and everyone a favour, correcting your mistakes for all to learn! You can’t accept feedback; that’s the real issue.”

He explained that was his “authentic” style, though seemingly harsh. The Grant Master owl’s wise words immediately came to mind, “Authenticity without empathy is selfish. Authenticity without boundaries is careless.” Ishi apologised for the mix-up (never executed) several times and tried to argue about the handling, but the leader was never there to listen. Honcho was too busy defending his authority. (Goleman’s Leadership Styles; DiSC).

In the weeks that followed, the tension hung thick in the air.

Ishi replayed the public rebuke over and over in his mind; he knew he needed to find a way to mend the rift. The hare stepped back, reflected on the feedback and their behaviour patterns (LAB Profile®), and adopted a new approach.

In the next meetings, he changed his stand-up updates, curbing discussions or creative inputs in favour of established processes. No questions asked. Honcho felt back in control and the tension passed.

Eventually, harmony was back in the Enchanted Wood and arguments disappeared, along with creative collaboration, idea sharing, and challenging directions. The order was restored though.

Ishi couldn’t help but wonder:

  • How can leaders balance authenticity and empathy when giving feedback?
  • How can pack members communicate effectively with different leadership styles?
  • How can forest chiefs encourage constructive feedback and creative collaboration?
  • What role does clear process communication play in preventing misunderstandings?
  • How can individuals develop resilience and adaptability in challenging work environments?