Tag Archives: Linda Raya

We Need Empathy At Work, And Not Just Competition – Business (And Life) Counsel From Playwright Doug Wright

“We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional.” (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken)
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, Encouraging the Heart:  A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others

More profoundly than just getting things done, strong connections with others represent a value unto themselves. Relationships lie at the heart of who we are as humans; they give our lives meaning and significance.
Dov Seidman, how:  Why HOW we Do Anything Means Everything…In Business (and in Life)

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On a drive to a client’s last Thursday, I listened with rapt attention to a great hour on Think, the local NPR program (KERA – 90.1), hosted by Krys Boyd.  Krys is a terrific, always thoroughly prepared interviewer, and her guests on Thursday were a Pulitzer and Tony winning playwright, and his high school drama teacher.  Here’s the paragraph on Think’s web site:

Doug Wright

What makes a writer a writer, and how can a great teacher influence the arc of a writer’s career? We’ll spend this hour with playwright, author, screenwriter, actor, director Doug Wright and Linda Raya, the Highland Park High School Fine Arts director and theatre teacher who instructed Doug when he was a student at the school. Doug Wright will deliver the keynote address at this weekend’s 15th annual Highland Park Literary Festival.

During the interview, this paragraph absolutely gripped me (I transcribed this from the audio):

Doug Wright:
Art (should be perceived as) a serious subject.  I’m very fond of saying that Art, and Drama in particular, is the one discipline that teaches empathy…  Because if you’ve got a kid in Anne Frank, then they’re learning what it was like to be Jewish during World War II.  Drama is all about slipping into someone’s shoes, and walking their walk…by studying plays and acting in them we learn tolerance.
And the emphasis in schools (athletics):  we teach competition; we teach competition really, really well.  But we don’t always teach empathy and tolerance.  And I think that’s what these disciplines foster.  And I think it is shocking and disturbing that they’re the first to meet the chopping block when legislators are looking at the state budget.

I have read a lot of business books over the years, and there is little shortage of discussion of concepts such as “winning,” competition,” “beating the competition,” “being first.”

But this interview reminded me that there is another, I think better, side to this whole endeavor – let’s call it the “human side.”  And in the heart of this side is empathy – walking in another’s shoes.  Doug Wright reminds us of the simple fact that all business leadership, all business management, all business endeavor begin (and end) with human beings.

Starting by being human might be the best business (and life) counsel of all.