Great leaders have the right balance of empathy and objectivity. I often help business leaders strike this balance by teaching them the concept of association and dissociation. This concept can be applied to any profession or business, as well as everyday life. Association is when one is connected with something and involved as an active participant. Dissociation is when one is outside something and detached from it as an observer.

Both modes of operating have pros and cons.

When you associate with something or someone, you fully understand the details of the situation. You are better able to put yourself in the shoes of others, your empathy increases and so does your EQ. When you dissociate, you are able to be more objective and rational, less emotional and more pragmatic.

Favouring one mode, or getting stuck in the wrong mode can negatively affect your leadership. Sometimes, when you associate too much, you are too close to the situation to see the wood for the trees. Other times, when you dissociate too much, you can’t fully understand the complexities of the situation.

To associate or dissociate… that is the question

As a business leader, the key is to work out which situation to associate with, and which situation to dissociate from.

You should always try to associate yourself with pleasant, happy, successful situations – immerse yourself in the positive emotions and be present in the moment.

On the flip side, when things go wrong, it is best to dissociate yourself from the situation, take a step back and analyse what went wrong so you can learn from it and move on, rather than replaying the negative scene over and over (association) and beating yourself up about it.

Test yourself…

Find two situations: One in which you would normally be a full participant, and another where you would not normally be that involved.

In the first situation, where your natural instinct is to be in the thick of things, instead of immersing yourself in the situation, remove (dissociate) yourself and become an observer. Hanging in the fringes allows you to focus on and evaluate the conversation or situation, and understand the context of the different people in the room. It gives you greater perspective, and by segmenting the issues, you can process them easier.

In the second situation, where you are not normally that involved, try to associate with the situation more. Get involved in the conversation, make suggestions, engage with the content and state your opinions. Get a better understanding of the nuances so you can make more informed decisions.

By consciously choosing to associate or dissociate from certain situations, your mood improves, your communication and objectivity is more effective and you gain perspective which helps you make better decisions.

Do you have someone teaching you new tools to become a more effective business leader? If not, perhaps you need to “associate” with me as your business coach! Let’s connect.

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