“To promote empathy, we need to have a growth mindset”- Mirna Arif

EMPWR’s Ally Salama reached out to Mirna Arif, General Manager of Microsoft Egypt, and talked about the connection between leadership and empathy.

Mirna and Ally addressed several topics in their conversation, where empathy and leadership were brought up as the main points of discussion and emphasized the importance and role of emotional intelligence in leading teams and promoting an inclusive and diverse culture within Microsoft.

Mirna on leading with empathy

“To promote empathy we need to have, as a leader, a growth mindset; being open to learning and being open to failure actually, leaning into uncertainty, leaning into change”.

Mirna explains that empathy requires flexibility and an open mindset which can only happen through embracing others and their differences. “In my opinion,” Mirna adds “the best type of leadership is leadership from within,” emphasizing not only the importance empathy but also the importance of getting to know one’s team.

She carries on and says “A leader has to always lead from the front, and this might be true, but sometimes leaders need to lead from behind as well, you need to push your team forward, promote them, and encourage them,” Mirna tells EMPWR’s Ally Salama.

Mirna goes on about the evolution and history of implementing empathy within workingspaces, and explains that it was not so common a few years back, nor was it even considered as a criterion for success. She also recalls that a few years back, female leaders were criticized for having the same qualities that are now praised.

Emotional intelligence

While discussing the connection between Empathy and leadership, Mirna emphasizes that being aware and considerate of other people’s behaviour is just as important as being aware of your own. 

She says that part of being emotionally intelligent is to have an open mindset and to practice awareness of others. “People usually relate more to similar mindsets and judge people who are different, and you [might] dismiss such great ideas just because you are not open enough

Furthermore, she explains the importance of exercising curiosity, through listening and learning more about people’s differences and perspectives, and by having the courage to take a step back and to give people a chance to speak up.

Promoting diversity and inclusion in Microsoft

Mirna emphasizes the importance of embracing differences and speaks about the culture of inclusion within Microsoft and its message. Mirna says that Microsoft has always encouraged curiosity and always kept an open mind and allowed their teams more room for growth, and on that, she says “For us to be able to serve everyone, we need to represent everyone.”

Final Words

Mirna concludes her talk with Ally by addressing an emotionally charged message to her 15-year-old self and encourages Ally on his quest and praises his message for spreading empathy.

“Continue leading with empathy, for sure, but also lead with power, lead with conviction, and never stop being curious”.

Mirna Arif

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