How Great Leaders Transform High Sensitivity Into One Of Their Strongest Talents!

“Great leaders are highly sensitive in that they are acutely aware of the reactions of their people, the rhythms of the workplace, and the subtle, often unsaid shifts in the attitudes of their customers.” Justin Menkes 

How great leaders transform high sensitivity into one of their strongest talents.

On May 13th I attended the 1st international conference on high sensitivity at the VUB in Ghent hosted by Prof Dr. Elke Van Hoof.* 

I am an HSP (high sensitive person) myself and was therefore particularly excited to finally meet Dr Elaine Aron, who started the research on high sensitivity. 


Elaine Aron (Ph.D.)  began the study of the innate temperament of high sensitivity in 1991. She found that 20% of the population is highly sensitive. In 1996 her groundbreaking book, The Highly Sensitive Person, was published. Dr Aron’s book has since sold over a million copies and has been translated in to 17 languages.


“Great leaders are highly sensitive in that they are acutely aware of the reactions of their people, the rhythms of the workplace, and the subtle, often unsaid shifts in the attitudes of their customers.” Justin Menkes 

A lot of friends and colleagues asked me to give them an overview of her keynote. That’s why I choose to write this blog about what Dr. Aron calls the ‘DOES’. The traits that HSP’s  exhibit based on her research: Depth of processing (D), Over stimulation (O), Emotionally reactive and emphatic (E), Sensitive to subtle stimuli (S)

I added my own notes on how I see these traits reflected in great leadership.

Depth of processing

Dr Aron: “HSP’s have a preference for thinking more deeply. We notice and process things more then others. We do this consciously and unconsciously. Carrying around all this information costs us a lot of energy and is often a waste of time. But in 20% of the time it’s a real advantage. Then it becomes the shortcut in a traffic jam, that we see and others don’t. It’s a survival strategy.”

Great leaders are deep thinkers who have clearly thought through their beliefs and intentions. They know their WHY. This allows them to be straight forward and clearly articulate their perspectives from a place of conviction. People naturally resonate with them.

Over stimulation

Dr Aron: “Over stimulation is the only disadvantage of our trait. If you process everything more thoroughly, then you become tired easily. That’s the cost of us being highly sensitive. The rest of it are benefits.”

The leader that doesn’t miss much, especially the non-verbal and emotional state of a team, is better able to coach, make adjustments, and stress critical points in communication back out to the team.

Emotional Responsiveness and empathy

Dr Aron: “HSP’s have great emotional responsiveness and empathy, which is a big advantage. Why? You don’t think about anything very long if you don’t have a feeling about it. That’s true for everybody. We need our feeling to drive our thinking.  HSP’s have a great understanding of what others are feeling. How come? We have deeper feeling which stimulates deeper thinking. That’s why we process things more, because we feel more.

HSP leaders have the ability to soak in all that a team is communicating and feeling about a situation (some verbal, but most all is non-verbal and emotional). They are in-touch emotionally with their team. Which allows them to lead from a position of understanding and empathy.

Sensitive to subtle stimuli

Dr Aron: “HSP’s respond strongly to external stimuli. We notice things that others don’t. We are the one’s arranging work spaces with special care, adjusting the lightning or closing the curtains to have the right light intensity. We can get very upset when observing bullying or unethical behavior.”

To enhance trust in teams we need leaders that notice that somebody wants to speak up in a group discussion but decides not to.  Someone who can read between the lines, who knows when somebody feels uncomfortable or has a worried mind. They can create safe environments where people dare to speak their minds and hearts. They allow teams to question, challenge and disagree with each other in order to get the best answers. This in contrast to office politics and ego-tripping. 


* Presentations of the 1st international conference on high sensitivity can be found here.

Be the one that “keeps it real” by setting a new kind of leadership example.  Your high sensitivity might very well be the key.

It sure is one of the most needed leadership talents right now.

When you know what’s important to you, pursue it with all your heart. Take action to follow through, to become the person you most want to be, and to do the things you most want to do. If you want ongoing support to make those things happen, consider coaching to hold yourself accountable and to move forward – ambitiously – on the things you value most.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook. Thank you!So grateful to have shared this with you!

Live on purpose,


P.S.: Want to find out more about transforming high sensitivity into one of your strongest leadership talents?

Ann Baeke

Natural Leadership wants to help people, teams and organizations with their self-realization in an authentic and effective way. Self – realization brings freedom. People will feel happier and energized. Their performance increases. 

I put the mission of Natural Leadership –  finding self – realization and the freedom to unlock your full potential – to work by doing two things:

  • First helping leaders in strengthening their personal leadership.
  • Second helping teams and organizations in creating a culture of engagement.

Both reinforce each other and transform people and organizations. Result: Increase in well – being, profit and growth.




Ann Baeke - Natural Leadership

Jaartraject sensitive leadership community

Leadership Magic voor sensitief intelligente pioniers!

Ann Baeke - Natural Leadership

Online programma 'De kracht van sensitieve leiders'

Leadership Awareness voor sensitief intelligente exoten!

Ann Baeke - Natural Leadership


Op zoek naar een boeiende spreker? Ontdek hieronder meer over de keynotes:

0 reacties

Een reactie versturen