I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of “heart” in this world, especially in the workplace. It’s a well-known fact that most people leave their bosses, not their jobs. In a study by HR firm Randstad, more than eight out of 10 employees believe that their relationship with their supervisor has big impact on how happy they are with their jobs. Everyone is talking about the dynamics and culture in the workplace. We really are nearing a breaking point with people fed up with the status quo of what used to work in terms of leadership style. At the same time, I am encouraged by what I am seeing in the world of leadership development. The big buzz right now is about how to bring more heart into leadership.
In his book, The Heart of Leadership, Mark Miller uses the metaphor of an iceberg where the 10% above the water line represents leadership skills and the 90% below the waterline represents leadership character. In other words, 90% of the success of a leader is determined by what’s below the waterline. It’s our character that drives what we do and why. He says, “without leadership character, no one cares about your leadership skills.”
So what does it mean to lead with heart? Here’s what Miller has to say:
Hunger for wisdom
Wisdom is vital for making decisions. Leaders make a commitment to lifelong learning and development. They are open to input, other views and new ideas.
Expect the best
Expect the best of and believe in yourself and others. Heart-centred leaders choose to be optimistic and believe they can make a difference. Optimism is not about ignoring the facts though. People usually rise to the level of expectation. Great leaders support the development of teammates and teams.
Great leaders have a willingness to accept ownership and be accountable. Heart-centred leaders do not blame others, but rather they own their actions and outcomes. They turn the mirror around and ask themselves how they contributed to the failure. What did you learn, how will you do things differently in the future, what’s the gift in the experience? On the flip side, when things go well, leaders don’t need to accept responsibility, they give praise and express gratitude.
Respond with courage
When faced with challenges, the best leaders respond with courage. They don’t wait, they lean in and meet the challenge instead of turning away. When you hold back you contribute to the dysfunction of the team. Sometimes it means making hard or unpopular decisions. Practice taking action. Say what you really think. Each action will require a measure of courage.
Think others first
Being a servant leader is a mindset. It means helping others win and letting others shine. They leverage and honour the skills, passion and strengths of others. When leaders serve, we trust them more. Servant leadership raises engagement and motivation to do great work and drive action.
A title doesn’t make someone a leader. Lack of a title doesn’t mean you can’t lead. We can all be leaders. The thing that makes a leader extraordinary is their ability to achieve results with heart. All heart without results is weak. All results without heart is ugly. Unless a leader’s heart changes, his or her impact in the world will be limited. Leadership character once cultivated is hard to turn off. It becomes a part of who you are and who you are becoming.