How to lead from your heart (and why you should right now)

Leading from your heart (emotionally intelligent, collaborative, motivating) matters more now than ever as uncertainty permeates every aspect of work, life and what the future holds.

Anne Taylor explains that maybe you feel you already lead from your heart, or enough anyway.  Or maybe you’ve been successful leading with your head (rational, analytical, logical and task-driven) getting things done and achieving results. That has worked up to now. The world and business are changing, at an accelerated rate, and will continue to be uncertain and complex.

Why Now?

Your organization and, by extension, you, face an exhausting list of challenges that demand a different way of leading:

  • dealing with all the unprecedented changes because of coronavirus, including WFH, demand (or not) for your products or services, financial repercussions, health & safety requirements, business continuity processes etc,
  • evaluating and addressing your organization’s diversity and plans to redress as appropriate,
  • increasing stress and emotions of everyone which have always been present and are now heightened and unique to everyone which additionally can create tensions among people,
  • escalating speed and uncertainty of technology, competition, regulation and consumer needs and wants,
  • trying to achieve more with less,
  • replacing habits, processes and ways of operating that worked months ago that no longer work now,
  • increasing personal confidence, competence and empathy in your interpersonal interactions.

What is Leading from Your Heart? And What’s the Benefit?

To be clear, this isn’t about throwing away the head-smart skills of analysis, problem-solving, deadlines, contingency planning etc.  This is about adding more skills to your repertoire.   More skills allow you to increase your leadership effectiveness to handle unique individuals and different situations.

Leading from your heart is about soft skills or people skills. They are the behaviours we use when interacting with other people. You might not think of them as skills though (yet). You might feel they are just what you do to communicate and relate with others.  Connecting to yourself, to others and for others to connect with themselves is the basis of employee (or customer) engagement.  Having employees fully invested in their work and the organization with head, heart and hands.

By becoming more skilled in soft skills aka leading from you heart, your organization will:

  • Improve employee engagement and retention
  • Generate innovative ideas (every corporation lists innovation in its mission)
  • Foster an open, collaborative working environment
  • And hence, improve productivity and bottom-line results1

How to Lead from Your Heart

Focus Inside Yourself

  1. Know yourself – Collate existing data about yourself as YOU are the constant in every interaction you have. Data such as, performance reviews, 3600 surveys by your boss, team and peers, awards, certifications, complaints, criticisms, what are your passions?, what do you enjoy doing?, positive feedback e.g. verbal accolades/congratulatory cards/emails, any assessments you’ve had such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DiSC, Hogan, Belbin, Enneagram…(if you don’t have these find some online with free or inexpensive versions to complete now), and comments from your friends and family.
  2. Identify your values – Most companies publicly display their values. What are your personal values? They are a big part of who you are.  Living your values makes you come alive. To determine your values, look for when you are exhibiting resonance in your life, when you are feeling the excited and energetic (not always positive).  Download FOC the first chapter of my book here which contains the exercise to identify your values.
  3. Learn about emotions – some theorize that there are eight basic emotions: anger, fear, pain, joy, passion, love, shame and guilt2. How do each of these emotions feel in your body?  Knowing what they feel like for you helps you to manage them better.  When you feel an emotion at work, because we often do, you can choose intentionally how you to display that emotion (if you choose to) to have the impact you want.

Focus Outside Yourself on Others

  1. Give (and ask for) feedback – this requires putting your attention on others by communicating your observations of their behaviours and qualities and by asking them about your impact. Use the COIN model as a structure to give both positive and developmental feedback.  It stands for context, observation, impact and next step.  Download a template of the COIN model here to assist you.  Practice giving positive feedback first because it’s easier to do and because successful organizations give positive feedback 5-6 times for every 1 piece of negative feedback3.
  2. Coach – Coaching is the creation of a reflective space for an employee or colleague to figure out their own solutions and ideas in relation to a particular topic. This is done by the leader/coach listening in a deep and non-judgemental way and asking open (sometimes powerful) questions that help the employee discover ideas and possibilities in themselves.

Focus Between the Two of You

  1. Balance What and How – Your focus is on getting the work done and getting others to get work done. How you interact with others to get things done can vary significantly.  A dictator tells them what to do and how to do it; a nanny asks what they’d like to do, how and when they’d like to do it.  How could it be both? How could you interact to get the tasks done while at the same time at least maintaining, if not growing, the relationship?  In coaching this starts in the first session where we “design our alliance.”  An overt discussion about the goals, roles and ways of interacting for mutual enjoyment and success.  Start by asking a colleague or employee what brings out the best in them?  And then share what bring out the best in you.  Download the complimentary detailed ‘design the alliance’ worksheet here.
  2. Be courageous and hence vulnerable– Courage is about doing something dangerous or facing pain or opposition. It’s about putting yourself out there, trying new things, risking making a mistake or looking silly and feeling uncomfortable; moving forward despite the fear. Without embracing vulnerability and courage, the ideas in this article are just ideas and not opportunities.  At work the fear is judgement, of ourselves and by others.  Risk doing it ‘wrong’ and give feedback, coach, articulate an emotion, go against a natural preference.  Try something with someone ‘less risky’ that you get along with ok. Be courageous in your leadership so your employees are courageous in their work.

Leading from your heart benefits your employees and you.  It also benefits your suppliers and customers.  It even benefits your family.  Anywhere where personal interactions are happening leading from both your head and your heart can improve outcomes and satisfaction.

Anne Taylor is an Executive Coach & Author, helping successful, results-driven leaders improve their people skills to be more effective and satisfied.  Her website offers a range of materials, a sign-up for a complimentary session and a download of the first chapter of her book, “Soft Skills Hard Results.

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