Partnering with many highly technical leaders throughout the years, I have come to understand the direct communication style. They get to the point quickly, using as few words as possible, with a purposeful tone. They exude an air of authority. This past week was no different. I presented a leadership program to a group of senior leaders who were experts in their technical abilities and very firm in the way they shared their insights. They commanded a stage-type presence with a “been there, done that” attitude. So walking into a room filled with these confident seasoned leaders seemed a bit daunting. Well sort of.
As I opened my presentation with my leadership story, their eyes widened and stayed focused. Their facial expressions moved from stiffness to openness. I could see a transformation happening right in front of me. Within each of these senior leaders there was kindheartedness just waiting for the opportunity to emerge.
Then I asked them to share their leadership story and a leader in their lives who impacted their trajectory. And the doors opened wide with their stories and lessons. Let’s just say what they learned about each other that day changed their relationships with each other immensely.
Similar to what happened in my session, can take place on all of our teams and in our organizations. Leaders just need some ways to be more open themselves and cultivate a psychologically safe workplace.
Here are five heart based leadership tactics:
1. SHARE YOUR IMPERFECT STORY FIRST
When I stood in front of the senior leaders I wasn’t sure how they were going to react to my story. But what you will see is that when we are sincere in letting others in on our mistakes and failures, we build rapport and deeper connections. When the senior leaders shared their imperfect stories filled with challenges they overcame, a community of transparency and trust began to build that day.
2. USE AN APPROACHABLE TONE AND ATTITUDE
We become approachable leaders if we are able to:
- Be generous with our time with others
- Listen with curiosity and deep focus
- Ask questions to help others explore and grow
- Stay open-minded and don’t come into discussions with preconceived ideas
3. ENCOURAGE INCLUSION
It may be difficult for some of us to include different perspectives or even weigh suggestions that seem far-fetched, but heart based leaders welcome lively discussions and an exchange of divergent opinions. Heart based leaders are sensitive to introverts who may have a tough time speaking up in team meetings. They reach out to team members who may need extra time to prepare ahead of the meeting and empower them to share their ideas.
4. LET YOUR BODY LANGUAGE REVEAL-I CARE
When we uncross our arms and face others with a smile, we are sending the message that we value others and care about their obstacles and successes. When we have good eye contact and listen without interrupting we are heart based leaders putting the needs of team members before our own. Think about how your hand gestures and body languagealign with your words. And remember your words can often be misinterpreted if our nonverbals don’t align.
5. BECOME PART OF SOMEONE ELSE’S LEADERSHIP STORY
If a critical element of leadership is developing future leaders, let’s commit to being part of their leadership stories. Let’s support colleagues and team members in their growth by being heart based leaders.
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