Leadership and Management

What Makes Highly Sensitive People a Good Leader?

Highly sensitive people are always attuned to their own surroundings, which is a valuable trait of a leader. They have a great deal of empathy and are sensitive to the needs of others. Even though this trait makes them a good leader, not many are looking for a leadership position. Psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, who introduced the concept of HSPs, suggests that sensitivity is a heritable trait. However, early-childhood environments could also play a role.

What is a highly sensitive person?

A highly sensitive person, also known as HSPs, is an individual who has a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, light, taste, or emotional cues. HSPs may process information more deeply and be more emotionally responsive to their surroundings.

Psychologist Elaine Aron and her husband, Arthur Aron, introduced the term “highly sensitive person” (HSP) in 1996. According to her theory, HSPs are a subset of the population that has a high level of sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS). Aron estimates that 15–20% of the population are highly sensitive.

Are you highly sensitive?

If you find bright lights, loud noises, or crowded areas disturbing you, you might be highly sensitive. Here are some of the traits that are associated with being one:

  • High emotional intensity
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Easily overwhelmed under pressure
  • Notice subtle details
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Cautious and slow to make decisions
  • Dislikes violence and conflicts
  • Feeling a strong urge for downtime
  • Having a rich inner world
  • Attracted to beautiful things such as art, nature, and kindness

A highly sensitive person could easily be confused with other mental health disorders or personality traits, according to Very Well Mind. Being an introvert does not mean being an HSP. Introverts are overwhelmed by crowds or people, but HSPs are sensitive to all types of stimuli, which include lights, noise, smell and violent behaviours.

Also, while HSPs are very responsive to stimuli, they have no problem with focus or paying attention and this could be confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It could also be mistaken for sensory processing disorder (SPD) or autism.

Highly Sensitive as a Leader

A leader who is highly sensitive can bring unique qualities and strengths to their role. Here are some characteristics and advantages associated with being a highly sensitive leader:

  1. Engaged: Good leaders ask thoughtful questions and share information about themselves.
  2. Awareness: Not only do they understand how others feel, but their awareness of subtle details enhances business efficiency and accuracy.
  3. Emotional intelligence: Good leaders understand and control their own emotions and also know how to recognize and influence the emotions of those around them.
  4. Warm and caring: Warm and caring leaders are well-liked and focus on actions that help others.
  5. Seeking meaning and purpose: Leaders look for something important or try to achieve a goal.
  6. Creativity: Leaders can come up with new innovative ideas, solutions to problems, or create something artistic.
  7. Problem solver: An empathic problem-solving approach and creative and inclusive decision-making contribute to success.
  8. Peacemaker: Leaders try to bring peace by resolving conflicts between different parties.
  9. Respectful: Not only their own needs; they treat others with respect and prioritize the needs of others at all times.

This type of leader possesses emotional intelligence and empathy, which are amazing qualities that can bring their team to success and encourage a positive work environment. While they have an exceptional list of traits, being a highly sensitive leader can be overwhelming and draining. Thus, it is crucial to manage this well.

The key to living without being overwhelmed as a highly sensitive leader is having a healthy lifestyle. This would involve both personal and professional lives. Healthy practices could include practicing self-care, setting boundaries, having good time management and managing workflows efficiently. With these practices, a highly sensitive person can not only meet the demands of a leader but also take good care of their own team.

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