Chaitanya Patel Of XTRING Streetwear: 5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Trust & Loyalty: It’s important to establish a trustworthy relationship with your employees and colleagues by being authentic, transparent, and true to your values.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is increasingly recognized as a pivotal leadership trait. In an ever-evolving business landscape, leaders who exhibit genuine empathy are better equipped to connect, inspire, and drive their teams towards success. But how exactly does empathy shape leadership dynamics? How can it be harnessed to foster stronger relationships, improved decision-making, and a more inclusive work environment? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Chaitanya Patel.

Chaitanya, who goes by CP, is a Cybersecurity professional by day and owns a clothing brand, XTRING Streetwear, and his brand mission is to help elevate confidence through style.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about empathy, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

It all started with an idea, but even after being in the business for over a year and a half, I’m still trying to figure out whether it was a good idea. The idea came to me in the summer of 2020 when I came across a lot of low-quality clothing in a similar style to what I wanted. However, I didn’t decide to move forward with it until March 2021. Although I knew I was entering a very competitive industry, I had confidence in my product. The fabric, blend, and fit are all top-notch.

I understand that the apparel industry is incredibly dynamic, and what’s popular today may not be relevant three months from now. However, I believe that anything with good quality has a long shelf life. I just need to find the right audience for it. This is something I truly believe in, and I’ll continue doing it for as long as I can. Quitting is not an option for me. I’ve come too far to give up now.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I have been focusing on fabric and comfort for my clothing line. I don’t like wearing anything that’s made of polyester, which is a material commonly used in clothing. So, I have invested my time and resources to come up with a unique fabric blend that sets my brand apart from others. Although building brand awareness is still a work in progress, I’m confident that it will happen eventually.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

A successful leader might be an overstatement but here’s what’ve learned from the people I look up to and the principles I will lead by:

Do more for others and expect nothing in return: Whether they are your employees or merchants or friends or family. Go above and beyond for them and don’t make them wait for something that’s theirs. In the moment you might feel like you’re giving away a whole lot, but it always comes back to you in one way or another. But helping someone and paying someone forward, sometimes literally, will go a long way. Don’t think about it, don’t dwell over it. Just move on.

It is a common misconception that a leader must be the most talkative person in a room. However, a true leader understands the importance of listening to everyone’s opinions and perspectives to make informed decisions for their team. Being loud and blaming others does not help and can make a leader appear unconfident and intimidating. Remember, talking less and listening more can make you a better leader.
Being a leader does not imply hiring a lot of people to boss around and then getting angry when things go wrong. A real leader should lead by example, by setting a standard of what is expected by doing the same work and demonstrating how it can be done. There is nothing wrong with delegating tasks, but guidance is still necessary.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

I have not personally been in a situation like that, but I have experienced similar scenarios with my manufacturers. As a business owner, I understand the importance of controlling costs. However, it is crucial to realize that manufacturers can only do so much, depending on the quantity of items you purchase from them. Therefore, it is important to work with them and find a feasible solution for both parties. By building a good relationship with my overseas manufacturers, I have been able to receive their forward business.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define empathy in a leadership context, and why do you believe it’s a vital trait for leaders to possess in today’s work environment?

When you are leading someone, you should try to understand their perspective and lead accordingly. Most likely, you were once in their position and found a leader who helped you get to where you are now. Sometimes it can be difficult to lead someone if they are not receptive, but it’s important to remember what it was like to be a follower and how things didn’t always go as planned. Empathy is crucial in the business world, and it involves understanding who the other person is, where they come from, and how to lead them effectively. By helping them turn their weaknesses into strengths, their strengths will also become even stronger.

One of the most important qualities of a leader is their ability to make sound decisions. Regardless of the situation, a leader must be able to weigh all the factors and make a thoughtful decision that will help those in need. It’s important to understand that sometimes, even with the best intentions, the decision made may not be the perfect one. In such cases, one must accept the outcome and move on.

Can you share a personal experience where showing empathy as a leader significantly impacted a situation or relationship in your organization?

My virtual assistant once needed my help. He has always been a very helpful person to me, but on this occasion, he was having trouble closing on his new home because payments from his other clients were stuck. He reached out to me for assistance, and without any hesitation, I gave him whatever he needed. I know firsthand what it’s like to have someone offer a helping hand when it’s needed the most. I would hate to see someone lose something when I could help them.

How do empathetic leaders strike a balance between understanding their team’s feelings and making tough decisions that might not be universally popular?

Sometimes you have to stand with the majority, and sometimes the majority will stand with you because they know the type of leader you are.

How would you differentiate between empathy and sympathy in leadership? Why is it important for leaders to distinguish between the two?

Empathy means understanding another person’s perspective and being attentive to them, while sympathy means being supportive of what is happening to the person without necessarily understanding their emotions. It’s that simple!

What are some practical strategies or exercises that leaders can employ to cultivate and enhance their empathetic skills?

On a personal note, it is important to work on developing emotional skills. Empathy plays a significant role in managing emotions. However, it can be challenging for me to be empathetic in certain situations or disputes when my primary focus is on running the business and maintaining stability.

How can empathy help leaders navigate the complexities of leading diverse teams and ensure inclusivity?

Understanding where someone comes from is crucial. While hiring individuals, we usually focus on their work experience, which is vital. However, it is also essential to get to know them personally, not by asking about their family, but by understanding their life experiences. Building trust and being genuine is crucial, and it’s about being authentic, not putting up a facade to create a false impression. This trust will help you become a better leader by helping others understand better. In a work environment, core values are vital and should be followed by everyone.

What’s your approach to ensuring that succession planning is a holistic process, and not just confined to the top layers of management? How do you communicate this philosophy through the organization?

It all starts with treating everyone in the company equally, irrespective of their position. It’s important to involve everyone in the ongoing efforts, seek feedback instead of running the show on your own, and choose the right people for the job. As a mentor, you need to adjust as needed and be available whenever required. Full transparency is crucial, and it must be communicated from the very beginning. It’s essential to check in with your staff frequently to ensure that you’re always available to them.

Based on your experience and research, can you please share “5 Ways Empathy Will Affect Your Leadership”?

1 . “Wolf Mentality”: Being empathetic means being a good leader in a work environment. You are leading people in whichever direction you go, so stepping up for yourself and your team to ensure that you are leading them correctly and setting a good example for your staff is the most empathetic thing you can do. They are relying on you, so never lose control.

2 . Communication: Communication is not always about what you want or expect from others. Instead, it should primarily be focused on understanding their thoughts and ideas and finding ways to incorporate their feedback into your workplace culture. This approach can help guide and enhance communication, leading to a more productive and positive work environment.

3 . Trust & Loyalty: It’s important to establish a trustworthy relationship with your employees and colleagues by being authentic, transparent, and true to your values.

4 . Ask Questions: It’s important to remember that just because no one is speaking up doesn’t always mean everything is going smoothly. Sometimes people may find it difficult to express themselves for various reasons. That’s why it’s really important to have regular meetings and check-ins where everyone feels comfortable to voice their opinions. Consider having frequent one-on-one meetings with team members who may be shy or hesitant to speak up in group settings.

5 . Resolving Conflicts: This is a delicate situation, and it may be difficult to satisfy everyone involved. However, it is essential to empathize with each person’s perspective and understand their concerns. To do this, it’s best to speak with each person privately and then bring everyone together to make a decision.

Are there potential pitfalls or challenges associated with being an empathetic leader? How can these be addressed?

Sometimes, you may be perceived as biased in the workplace, which is why it’s important to prioritize transparency with your colleagues and staff.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

“I think about every waking day and make sure to do everything I need to. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so I ask myself every day if I did what I needed to do. Did I reach out to whoever I needed to for whatever reason? Did I give my 100% to whatever I did? And if I maintain business integrity while taking care of and providing for my family? There is no option B. More often than not, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am focused on using my brand to support as many veterans as possible. During the recent holiday season, I collaborated with a non-profit organization and donated all the profits to help the veterans. I strongly believe that everyone should do as much as they can to support our servicemen and women. Their sacrifices are beyond our imagination, and we must help them and their families in any way possible.

Also, offer my platform to young aspiring entrepreneurs to help them build their brand.

How can our readers further follow you online?

IG @chaitanyapatel.eth

FB: Chaitanya A Patel

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.