Business articles and books which marry the theme of leadership with heart have gained traction of late, and as a speaker on the power of connection, I’m thrilled to witness the joyful union. When Robert K. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership” over 30 years ago, who knew it would take this long to shift mindsets and awaken awareness to the truth that leaders who start with heart create healthy teams that, in turn, drive healthy profits. When individuals feel respected, heard, challenged, and encouraged to achieve, their genuine desire to contribute, collaborate and produce is heightened. This is true whether you’re leading a team of project engineers, a classroom of students, a group of volunteers, or your own family.
If you want to start with heart, here’s three ways to show, not tell, another you genuinely care.
Hold individuals accountable. What? This doesn’t sound loving. Yet, it is, assuming you’ve provided the structure, systems and support to help the individual succeed in the first place. When you let someone off the hook too easily, or simply end up doing the task yourself due to deadlines, you’re not being caring or helpful. Rather, you’re contributing to the problem and holding the person back from future opportunities, as well as stunting their personal growth. Not to mention you’re also showing others your inconsistent leadership style which erodes trust. The top salesperson who consistently arrives late to weekly sales meetings shouldn’t get a pass, nor the team member who shows up with half of his or her expected contribution. Heart-centered leaders immediately address –rather than avoid – accountability issues. Care enough to get to the heart of the matter through a calm, respectful conversation, discuss concerns, and identify solutions.
Dare to Share. No, I’m not asking you to divulge your deep, dark secrets, but rather share more than your professional self to your teams. People best connect with the person behind the position, so feel free to share a story about your child’s soccer game or your talent behind the grill. I speak regularly at administrative assistants’ conferences, and I always hear that when their supervisors share pieces of their personal lives, the assistants feel a deeper connection and sense of loyalty. Be vulnerable during a meeting and offer up a time you made a costly error, worked on a project that didn’t go as planned, and what you took away as a result. When you share your less-than-perfect moments, you’re viewed as more humble and relatable. Daring to share creates a safe and trusting environment which gives people permission to take risks and reveal their own challenges as they occur.
Show up, listen up, and learn. Yes, you’re busy. Everyone is busy and no one has time anymore to drop by or drop in due to more pressing issues. It’s rare not to be interrupted with an “Excuse me but I need to take this call,” or darting, distracted eyes. But the leader who shows up for the women’s leadership event to show support and remains to listen to the program; the leader who shows up in the cafeteria to sing Happy Birthday to an employee and asks about their job or family; or the leader who simply looks up while riding the elevator, smiles, and engages with those nearby will be talked about and remembered as one who has his or her heart in the right place.