So I set a challenge for a senior level leader to lead with more heart. To do so means actually sharing more of her humanity with her team. Sounds like a simple challenge but for this leader it was akin to being ask to present in front of a large audience wearing only her shoes. She wants to come across to her peers and direct reports as the person she really is: empathetic, flexible, kind, caring and one who appreciates a good joke. The opposite is what she feels she regularly presents to her team.
The organization she heads up is going through major and significant restructuring and trimming down of departmental budgets. This also means no new hires especially in the light of offering voluntary retirement for some of her employees. On top of all this she along with her fellow senior leaders are asked to deliver more with you guessed it less. How can she in light of these demands placed on her, start truly demonstrating to her direct reports her true qualities? The question she asked me was “couldn’t I wait until things settle down around here before I embark upon this interpersonal relationship building?” My response this is the perfect time to get started!
Waiting for the right time to do anything often translates into not getting done the very things you say you want. Some people will go further to say they want this thing more than anything in the world-just waiting for the right time-which never comes.
Back to the senior leader. Leading with Heart as one of the recommended leadership practices can be a challenge for some leaders, but not an impossibility. The key is to start with small doable things such as the following:
- Remember the names of the important people in the lives of your direct reports
- Remember the things they are interested in outside of work do they love to garden? cycle? volunteer at the local animal shelter?
- Remember where they went for vacation and ask about their experience be genuinely interested
- Remember their favourite food, music, activities their children participate in etc. etc.
The above are but a few practical ways to start building your leading with the heart confidence level. They are safe, non-intrusive and demonstrate your interest in those you lead. It is this interest that builds the interpersonal bridge that now allows you to start leading with heart.
What does it look like as a leader who leads with heart? I recommend taking a look at www.leadershipchallenge.com to see more of Kouzes and Posner’s work entitled The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Below are a few ways to take your leadership to the next level of leading with heart:
- Get to know the personality types of your direct reports
- Recognize and acknowledge your people for their contributions based on how they like to be recognized
- Let your people know you appreciate them by ensuring they are heard, understood and encouraged to be active contributors in the organization
- Be honest with your people. Share honestly what you can with them to allay fears and speculations.
With the senior leader she vacillates between the first set of doable things and the latter four. She is slowly building her confidence in trusting herself to reveal some of her ‘soft underbelly’. This will come with deliberate practice over time.
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Here’s to loving how you live, work and play!