WSJ Column: How we lose in the race to win

And here’s what I’ve learned: the leaders are not the highest IQ people in any organization. They didn’t get the highest grades, they didn’t score the highest exam scores.

They got to the top because they have the ability to attract the best people to work for them. And at the root of that power of attraction is empathy.

Empathy is the ability to truly connect with other human beings. It’s life’s hardest but most important skill. And it’s the #1 skill required for leadership in a changing world.

It’s all about relationships

Nothing important ever has been accomplished by one person alone. The far greater value-add is in the relationships between people. That’s why it’s only through learning how to relate effectively to others that we achieve success in career and life.

An organization is shaped like a pyramid. At the bottom are a large number of worker bees. Above them are the people who manage the worker bees. Next are the people who manage them. And further on up, until you get to the CEO.

The reason why many people never rise above worker-bee status is that their skills are worker-bee skills. They know how to work really hard, all by themselves. That’s what they’ve been trained to do.


As we are moving to a fast paced world, I’m a believer that we need to learn how to work cross-sector, cross-collaboratively, and be open minded, empathetic to different ways of life, in order to be able to solve our world’s most toughest problems. (See Peggy Lu’s talk on Cultural Bridges)

If this is the path I wish to take in life, maybe it matters less what I pursue as a career/job and more about how I can contribute to society in bringing people together. While I like art/design/music, I value it as a form of expression and less as as a career (although it could be a potential career).

My definition of success has evolved, realizing that it doesn’t matter as much as how good you are as a certain area if the intention is to only make a lot of money. First, I’m far from a perfectionist (I’m lazy and I don’t really aspire TOO MUCH about going to grad school or moving up the corporate ladder, although it could happen, but I’m not putting too much emphasis on it).

In life, it matters more for me that I can create healthy, strong relationships, enjoy life, but also be able to understand/empathize with different cultures and perspectives. Respect and get to know people individually. However, I think we should all work together as a team to figure out how to make the world more healthier for our kids and our future, because in a fast-paced society where everybody is competing for things, we have to find a way to balance our own ambitions as humans (that give us self-ownership in life), while balancing that we have to live, enjoy what we have.

I think it matters more that we rely the strengths of everybody around us (including our own strengths), and work together collaboratively.

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