Becoming A Heart-Centered Leader

Red Heart On Wooden Background

Matters of the Heart

Students of leadership will often look at the intellectual attributes of a great leader. We point to great strategy, distinction, winning against the competition.  Leadership is also about matters of the heart.  Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett’s book Heart-Centered Leadership reminds leaders to be mindful, authentic, and caring.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Susan Steinbrecher about her work. Susan is a consultant, mediator, speaker and leads Steinbrecher & Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm.

 

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” -Jesse Jackson

 

Leading From the Heart

What is your definition of “Heart-Centered Leadership”?

Heart-Centered Leadership means having the wisdom, courage and compassion to lead others with authenticity, transparency, humility and service.

 

“You lead by encouragement and inspiration, not by fear and control.” -Susan Steinbrecher

 

Anyone can be a heart-centered leader if he or she has the determination and daily commitment to practice certain core principles.  The root or basis of these principles is what we call “the power of the human element.”  Two things are required to tap into and unleash the human element.  The first is your ability to listen or, even better, your ability to learn how to listen.  The second is your own willingness to clear personal obstacles, in other words, your own story and organizational obstacles that get in the way of this deeper listening.

 

“If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.” -Chinese Proverb

 

3 Differences of a Heart-Centered Leader

Off the top of your head, what 3 things are different about a heart-centered leader?

  1. The focus is to serve the people that you are leading, not the other way around.
  2. A heart-centered leader tells the truth.  If you are not able to provide information when asked, you must be willing to explain why you aren’t at liberty to share that information.
  3. A heart-centered leader does not judge or assume, but comes to understand, asking the right questions instead rushing to judgment and assumption.

Our book outlines some key guidelines for heart-centered behavior. But in order for this behavior to be authentic, it has to come from a place of emotional resonance and coherence. You have to believe in what you are doing. It has to resonate with you. Ultimately, a heart-centered leader leads from principles, values, and virtues.

 

“Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.” -Rumi

 

Encouraging Leaders to Have an Open Mind

How do you encourage leaders to be open-minded?

I ask them to reflect on a time in their career when being open-minded paid big dividends and why.  I also ask them to tell me of a time when they were not open-minded and what happened.  I find that if people can reflect on their own experiences, they can piece together the benefits of being open-minded much faster than me pointing out the rewards of being open-minded.

0615891195Another approach is to ask leaders to imagine how differently they would communicate with an associate if grounded in this key principle: people have positive intentions.  It requires revising certain ways of thinking, such as taking sides in a conflict, and replacing them with healthier habits of mind — observing the perspective of both sides.  It involves identifying and taking responsibility for your own mental tendencies, including an inclination to stereotypes and making snap judgments about what people “should” do.  It also means flexing your empathetic muscle.  As a result, you gain a greater understanding of the causes of atypical behavior and problems that result from that behavior, as well as insight into the best solution.

 

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.” -David Starr Jordan

 

Leaders Need to Let Go

Often leaders feel like they need to seize the reigns, and yet you talk about the importance of letting go.  Tell us more about that.

How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying

Woman stressed is going crazy pulling her hair in frustration.

 

  • Would you like to ruin a business?
  • Have you been looking for tips that will guarantee you to fail?
  • Want to screw up your next big deal?

I didn’t think so.  That’s why you should read my friend, MJ Gottlieb’s new book How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying: What Every Entrepreneur Should Not Do When Running a Business.

Because it will save you a lot of time, money, pain and aggravation to learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than your own.

Don’t own a business?  His advice isn’t just for entrepreneurs.  The same advice for an entrepreneur applies in the corporate world.

I recently had the opportunity to ask MJ to share his perspective with you.  He writes with an honesty and humility about his trials and mistakes that will draw you right in.

 

Fact: 90% of start-ups fail and 70-80% of all businesses fail within 10 years.

 

Learn What NOT to Do

MJ, why a book on ruining a business?

When an entrepreneur starts a business, a tremendous amount of time, effort and (often) money is spent and great sacrifices are made at the expense of friends and family.  That is a fact.  It is also a fact that losing (ruining) a business after all that sacrifice can be an extraordinarily painful experience.  What most people don’t realize is that they can significantly mitigate the risk of failure by learning from the mistakes of others before the clock starts and the stakes are for real.  If you truly study brands, you will see a pattern of common-thread mistakes that most businesses both past and present seem to share in common.  The ones who are willing to recognize a mistake and quickly adapt, adjust and modify will survive, the rest disappear.

 

“Only brands willing to recognize a mistake and adapt, adjust and modify will survive.” -MJ Gottlieb

 

It’s not that aspiring entrepreneurs don’t want to learn from failure, I think society is simply focused too much on the end result (the success) and is viewing things through rose-colored glasses.  Most of the information that I come across focuses on the small percent who are succeeding, as opposed to studying and learning from the vast majority who are not.

Statistics show 90% of start-ups fail and 70-80% of all businesses fail within 10 years.  Despite these facts, the market is flooded with how-to books and courses on how to succeed.  Here’s my concern with this.  Every business is different with its own unique blueprint to success, so there is absolutely no way you can tell someone how to run their business.  You can, however, find the key mistakes that most businesses seem to share in common to start to swing the percentages in the other direction and give more hope to the entrepreneur.

 

Learn From Adversity

How has adversity helped make you who you are?

I think it’s all about one’s perspective on the word.  Corny as it may sound, I have come to crave adversity and look at it as yet another great opportunity to grow.  The only reason I can see that perspective is because I operated from the other side for a very long time.  When I was young, I ran away from everything and accomplished nothing.  It wasn’t until I was able to turn around and look adversity in the face that I was able to take the power away from it and use it to my advantage.

I think adversity not only makes you a stronger person but also is the only way to see what you are truly capable of.  I think there should always be adversity to some extent, as it will always challenge us to grow.  Without adversity there is complacency, which I think is a four-letter word.  I always want some goal ahead of me that I have not yet achieved or some stumbling block I have not quite yet moved aside.

 

“It is just as important to know where you are as it is to know where you want to be.” -MJ Gottlieb

 

For example, basketball was my salvation, and I played every day until I couldn’t play anymore and had to get my hip replaced. I still do two hours of physical therapy every night because I not only want to get back on the basketball court but also want to dunk again.  The doctor says that is most likely not going to happen.  I say it most likely will.  While he is showing me the adversity, I choose to take it as a challenge and an opportunity.

How To Ruin 3D 2

Take me to the dark days after your first business failed.  What were you thinking? 

Creating A Buzz: 7 Ways to Stand Out

bigstock-Honey-in-glass-jars-with-flowe-44092480

It’s a honey festival.  What would you expect?  Honey!  And honey is a commodity, right?  It’s all the same.  If you want honey for a recipe, or to add to some hot tea, you pick up some honey at the store.

My view of honey completely changed when I attended the Lithopolis Honey Festival last year. I left not only with new information about honey, but also with observations on how to make nearly any business stand out.

Arriving at the festival, I see the streets have been closed to allow for tents to fill the streets.  People are everywhere, crowding the vendors.  With so many people milling about, how do the honey manufacturers attract customers?

As my family walks down the street, we stop to visit each table.  I begin to notice how wrong I am about honey.  There are innumerable ways that each company is different.

STAND OUT

Here are a few ways that I began to see the differentiation:

Don’t sell a product.  Entertain the audience.  Crowds gather around to see “Bee Beard.”  That’s where a man of perhaps questionable sanity has somehow managed to create a beard made of hundreds of bees, extending down his body and circling his head.  From the number of people crowding around, it’s clear that this team is successful.  It’s hard not to stop and take a look.

Use personality to develop loyalty.  Some honey producers were present in the aisles with a friendly smile. They were not accosting or overly aggressive.  These savvy customer service honey sellers met us in an engaging way, answering questions.  Somehow in the first minute, we know the history of the business and the family.  You don’t need an academic study to know that you are more likely to buy from someone you know.

Create unexpected flavor.  Did you know that honey could come in cinnamon or raspberry?  Resisting the chance to try various flavors is futile, so we stop and taste a few.  Now we are comparing notes, sharing tastes.  Engaging with a product in this way increases the sale opportunity. 

Why Winners Take Risks

Decision Making Process, Risk Management

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Tom Panaggio, entrepreneur, strategic advisor, speaker and amateur race car driver about taking risks, winning, and using failure to propel success. Tom is the author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge.

 

The 2 Big Advantages of Risk

 

“A leader who accepts risk is setting the stage for long term success.” –Tom Panaggio

 

Why is risk an advantage?

 

There are two big advantages to risk.

First and foremost risk is directly connected to opportunity.  Every opportunity must have an element of risk or there will be no benefit.  Risk is the cost of opportunity.  All businesses and organizations must be in a constant state of forward progress because of competition and the ever-changing demands of customers.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur or business leader we must continuously seek out opportunities to meet these demands.  A leader who recognizes the vast importance of forward motion for their organization accepts risk as merely a cost of opportunity and then actively endorses this philosophy throughout his business in setting the stage for long term success.

Secondly because most people have a tendency to avoid or minimize risk, those who have the courage to embrace it already have a competitive advantage.  For example my company was a non-stop marketer.  We knew that our competition was not willing to risk the investment in marketing to the degree that we were.  So we took advantage of their unwillingness to risk the marketing dollars and dominated our market space by out-marketing them.  We put ourselves in a position to win by embracing the risk of marketing.

 


“The only way to achieve success is to have the courage to embrace risk every day.” –Tom Panaggio

 

How do you encourage the appropriate amount of risk?

It is important to understand that my position on embracing risk does not advocate blindly engaging in any and all opportunities regardless of the potential outcome.  But the only way to achieve long term success is to have the courage to embrace risk each and every day.  With that said, there is no standard to determine what level of risk is appropriate, and there is only a blanket rule of thumb that can be generally applied.  That’s the great challenge of being a business leader: recognizing worthy opportunities.  Any opportunity that is void of a sufficient benefit or is described as “no-risk” should be avoided.  Each situation that requires one to embrace risk must be evaluated on a unique basis.

If pressed for an answer, I would say that we always start with the end to determine if this is an opportunity worth pursuing.  What is the reward or benefit the company receives from committing to this opportunity?  If an opportunity provides little reward or doesn’t help with the company’s forward motion, then we limit the amount of risk.  If the opportunity can change the competitive landscape for the company or increases the value your product or service has for your customers, then the level of risk increases by the potential return.

Everyone wants a formula or template they can apply to all business situations.  That shifts the responsibility from the business leader to the formula.  But in the end, business leaders need to rely on their gut intuition and have the courage to step outside the comfort zone.

 

Adapting A Winner’s Mindset

 

How do you adapt a winner’s mindset?

This is really a difficult concept to grab hold of because human nature is pushing us to play not to lose rather than to go for the win.  A study was done and it found out that most people get twice as much joy from not losing as they do from winning.  Lose aversion creates risk aversion: “I don’t want to lose what I have.”

My father was a basketball coach so from a very early age the idea of winning was a way of life. I was conditioned to want to win and, therefore, not only to think like a winner, but more importantly ACT like a winner, which means having the internal drive that says, “I want to win” and then focusing on preparing for competition, execution and moving forward.

 

“If you do not have a winner’s mindset, odds are you will not succeed.” –Tom Panaggio

 

The truth is business does not support the theory of, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”  In business you not only better play the game right, but you have to win, too. Competition in business has no level of compassion, you either want to win and then act like a winner or you get eliminated.  So if you do not possess a winner’s mindset when you launch a business, the odds are you will not succeed.

 

Using Failure to Succeed

A Leadership Course for the Rising Star

Cutlery Set

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery

As a new manager, Kevin volunteers for the most unusual challenge.  Kevin is the manager of an airline catering company.  The airline is furious when it discovers that silverware is disappearing at an accelerating rate.  Given an aggressive deadline, Kevin needs to find out why the cutlery is disappearing and solve the problem.

As he is solving the case, Kevin learns about team building and motivation.

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery is your personal story of learning leadership.  You found yourself managing a team with a major problem, with limited time to fix it, and with limited resources.  Why is this story resonating with readers?  Have you shared it with some of your colleagues working on “the case”?

The Case of the Missing CutleryThere’s so much great literature on leadership, but when I was coming up, it was hard to see how the high-flying exploits of C-level titans applied to me as a newly-minted shift supervisor.  People can easily relate to stories on the shop floor as well as colorful characters that we all have shared at one time or another.  I have received nothing but warm reactions from my peers including Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s former Chief Executive (and now with Apple), who endorsed the book.

 

What is buoyancy?  Why and how is it created?

Contrasted with the command and control of yesterday’s hierarchical organizations, buoyancy is the concept that you “float” by connecting with the hearts of your people, galvanizing them on a journey toward an amazing goal.  They “float” you because they believe you are worthy and reward your belief in them with their belief in you.

 

The Importance of Story

Why is storytelling an important skill for a leader?

Storytelling is man’s oldest form of communication.  Throughout the ages, we have used this resonant means to impart vitally important values, beliefs and principles. It is powerful because it is human and emotive.

 

What is the “six o’clock conversation” and how is it important to leadership?

Well it’s funny you should ask: I remember vividly when I got my first leadership role at venerable ad agency McCann Erickson.  Mike, my mad-man boss, slapped me on the back and said, “Well, kid, congratulations.  You are now dinner conversation.  Everything you say, and more importantly how you say it, will be shared at dining tables all across your organization.”

Putting thought into the positivity and the emotive quality of what you say can move mountains, or as poet Maya Angelou would say, “ You may be forgotten for what you said, or forgotten for what you did, but never forgotten for how you make people feel.”

 

Kevin Allen is best known for his work at the top of advertising behemoths McCann-WorldGroup, the Interpublic Group and Lowe and Partners Worldwide where he worked with brands including Microsoft, Nestle, and Lufthansa.  He pitched the famous “Priceless” campaign for MasterCard.  He is the Founder & Chairman of employee engagement company Planet Jockey, which specializes in gamified learning and business transformation company re: kap.

 

Define real ambition and why it’s important.