65: Leaders With Heart Know They Must Give To Get And Grow


In this episode, Heather speaks with Ian Sohn, President of the Chicago office of Wunderman, a creative tech company. Ian talks about his leadership style, his philosophy on growing talents, and a rough spot he found himself in as a leader.

Heather discovered Ian through an article written about him in the New York Post, where they highlighted a recent open letter he wrote about his expectations for employees checking in after work hours. You’ll want to listen in on his perspective after you read the article. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders must transfer what they know to those around them.
  • Be intentional about the words that you use to express emotion.
  • Always consider the intention of someone’s actions before holding it against them.
  • Think of mistakes as teachable moments.
  • If leaders do the hard work to build trust through expressing love then no need for foreplay when go to deliver feedback.
  • Consider the employee lifecycle when coaching them.
  • Trust and then hold accountable.
  • Showing some vulnerability regarding mistakes is very important to build trust.
  • Take care of yourself first.
  • Never do a bad imitation of someone else, be you!

This is a must episode!

Ian Sohn’s Full BIO

Ian Sohn is the President of Wunderman Thompson Central Region, which includes Chicago, Austin, Memphis and Minneapolis.

Most recently, Ian was the Managing Director of SapientRazorfish Chicago where he looked after the business, human and cultural health of the office. He was also the architect and business lead for a world-class portfolio of brands, including CPG, insurance, retail, fashion, pharma and healthcare.

He is proud of his new business track-record; his passion for selling innovative ideas and solutions; the trust his clients put in him; and the joy he takes in finding and developing talent.

He spent eight years at Ogilvy & Mather where he started an award-winning social media practice; and championed digital, mobile and social expertise across the agency. Prior to Ogilvy, he was the global partnership lead for a division of Nokia.

Finally, he believes people are inherently decent. When he’s not working, he’s likely chasing his two little boys, yelling at athletes on TV who can’t hear him, watching Keith Moon clips on YouTube, devouring something with ketchup, reading anything he can find on Muhammad Ali or running a few miles on the Chicago lakefront.

Give, Get, Grow

What I am trying to do now is not only figure out how I can be more effective and empathetic but also discover how I can transfer some of the things that I have learned from leaders I have worked with to people who work for me. I have gone from leading for myself to leading and teaching for others. I have been unbelievably fortunate in my career to work for and be around incredible leaders. With that, I feel the responsibility to pass that on to others.

As cliché as it may sound, the more that you think about leadership that way, the more you end up growing as a leader. That’s a really nice kind of feedback to, “The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow.”

Being a leader and thinking about leadership is part of my job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Communicate Your Emotions

The reason we hire and pay people is because they can do a job. So, far be it for me to tell them how to do their job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you are frustrated, upset or angry about something, you have to communicate it. People have to know how you’re feeling in order to react, help, or just understand that you’re not happy with something. 

I think, what we all struggle with is how to communicate our emotions in a productive and respectful way without making it personal or hysterical.

There are times when I am good at it and times when I could do way, way better. I try to think about what I need to show from an emotional standpoint, in addition to the words that I use.

What do I need to show emotionally so that everybody in the room understands exactly the point I am trying to make?

If the words are the bones and the skeletons, the emotions are like the clothes that I am dressing them up with to make sure that I am communicating the right image to the room, so that they know where I am coming from and where I want to go.

Also, I never hold it against people when they show their human side when communicating, even if it comes out wrong. If the intention is good, then it’s okay, because they’re trying to do the right thing.

Fairly Unfazed

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had somebody very senior at work tell me that they were always surprised at how nonplussed they get at heightened situations but not me.

I trust people. I don’t micromanage. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I tend to remain fairly unfazed, or at least I try to not show that I am fazed by something. I try to remain calm. 

Obviously, being one of the senior people in the room, your tone and mood sets the tone for the rest

So, I try not to get hysterical because all it does is get everybody hysterical and nothing gets done.

Good lenses, bad frames. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Ian on LinkedIn and Twitter

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Tears and warmth on Memorial Day.

Today is Memorial Day, and I get to sit at my kitchen counter drinking lovely coffee and breathing in the air and blue skies of Colorado. Yes! I GET to do those things. Everyday, I look into my children’s eyes and hug them and smell them, I feel like I have been given a gift. I know that that gift was not free. I know that the price for this gift is paid by others. The men and women who died for our country deserved to be remembered everyday and in every way. My husband and I talk to our children about the “why” for this day. We do not want them to take this day for granted, as just another day off from school.

My oldest son teaches me that service is not compulsory, but it comes from the heart. We are all called to serve others in our own way. He is only 14, and yet, I have only known him as someone who sacrifices himself for the good of his family and friends. Honestly, since he was about 2 years old, I could see how he would give things up for his older sister. At first, it was cute. Then, I started to worry that he may hold a grudge for sacrificing so much. Twelve years later, I know now that his self-sacrifice fills him up. His calling fulfills him.

Over the years, I would have these nightmares that he would choose to enlist and very immediately jump on a grenade for his friends in battle. I know him to be that type of person. Occasionally, I have those uneasy feelings, but then I see the smile on his face whenever he is helping, or being with, or sacrificing something for someone else. I know that it is just who he is to give like that. Not all of us are wired with that type of calling. I respect those who answer that calling for our sake.

Leaders whom have as their North Star the desire to serve those around them, inspire and rally like nothing else. Think about it! Would you rather go into battle with someone who requires you to follow them because of title only, or would you rather march along someone who shows you their willingness to put themselves on the line first, before inspiring you to do the same?

Today, I want to honor all those men and women who walked into danger to give me the life I live today. I honor your memory and your sacrifice. I know how much it meant to you to stand for us. You allowed me to bear wonderful children. Because I am free, I was blessed to have them. They help me to see your sacrifice through their leadership.

Thank you!


I hope you enjoyed this article. Please to share it with those who might benefit from its message. If you have served this country or lost someone through their service, I salute you!

64: Leaders With Heart Help Their People Focus On A Common Mission


In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Giridhar Akkineni, CEO of AkkenCloud, about his leadership style, his anything-but-smooth journey to leadership, his hyper-focus on all things customers, and how he helps his people find meaning in their work.

Key takeaways:

  • Make it your focus to give your people something to be excited about every Monday morning.
  • Be open and personally connected to your people.
  • Customer success can be a driver for a bonded culture.
  • Set clear goals so that everyone can know how what they do connects to the bigger picture.
  • Never assume anything; ask the right questions.
  • Rely on your team at work and at home.
  • Connect at a personal level with your team.
  • Always be a learner.
  • Focus on time management.

Giridhar provides a very transparent path from which we can all learn! Listen in!

Giridhar Akkineni’s Full BIO

In an attempt to control the losses of his staffing company in 2002, Giridhar Akkineni started looking for a platform to centralize information, enhance efficiency and boost profitability by automating the “fill-to-bill-to-pay” process. 

Surprised and disappointed, in 2005, he set off to build AkkenCloud, an infinitely flexible, remarkably intuitive, and astonishingly powerful platform for the Staffing & Recruiting Industry. 

Hundreds of Staffing and Recruitment companies, with thousands of temporary employees, successfully run their businesses on AkkenCloud’s SaaS Platform. On average, Staffing and Recruitment companies that use AkkenCloud’s SaaS Platform grew by 220% within the first nine months.

Openness and Having a Personal Connection

For me, it’s an obligation that I keep learning every day –to find something new, bring it down to the people that are looking up on to me and make sure they’re excited and enjoying what they’re doing.

I am open and straightforward. I work very closely and I don’t have barriers for anything. We laugh and joke together. That openness, personal connection and having fun in everything we do is what people like about me.

Time defines everybody looking up on you because their lives depend on it. - @GiridharAkken #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

On a Timely Basis

Continue to focus on your customers. Invest on what they would need and support them for life. - @GiridharAkken #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

There is one thing that no person was able to get back no matter how much money they have, and that’s time.Trying to be able to achieve success in a defined time frame is very critical. 

Just because I am an entrepreneur or I don’t give up doesn’t mean that I can take forever doing what I need to do, or keep on failing and failing. Of course, there will be success for sure, but how soon is that?

Do everything but it has to have a time limit. You need to plan accordingly to achieve your goals in that time frame.

At the end of the day it all comes to, “What is the ultimate goal for all of us to achieve and how can we achieve that on a timely basis?” For me, there is no other option than being successful. But, what’s the time frame to achieve that?

Customer Success

We focus on our customers and what they need. We talk to them and we put things in place through technology to make them feel, “Oh, this is so easy.” That gives great satisfaction to us.

Once we take a customer, we ask: “How can we help them? What is it that we can do for them?”

If our customers follow the best practices, that’s when they’re successful, so we need to be able to support their best practices. We need to be able to share the best practices from successful customers that we had to struggling ones.

I need to learn every day. I don’t have superpowers and answers to everything. - @GiridharAkken #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You need to plan accordingly to achieve your goals in the timeframe. - @GiridharAkken #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
If our customers follow the best practices, that’s when they’re successful. - @GiridharAkken #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Giridhar on LinkedIn and Twitter

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63: Leaders With Heart Know That They Need Followers Before They Can Lead


In this episode, Heather speaks with Steve McIntosh about his leadership style, a very engaging story of his early leadership challenges and some powerful tips for all leaders. 

Key takeaway:

  • Always seek feedback from all around.
  • Leaders don’t realize that in order to lead, you must have followers.
  • People want their leaders to take them somewhere they want to go.
  • Provide a setting that allows your team to see the good and bad of leadership by giving them more responsibility.
  • It can be lonely as a sole leader. Do it with others.
  • Leaders are not superheroes.

Enjoy this conversation with a gent from Scotland who currently resides in the Cayman Islands!

Steve McIntosh’s Full BIO

Steve McIntosh is a business owner, chartered accountant and HR professional. 

Born and raised in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, he graduated from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, where he studied accounting and psychology. After starting his career with global accounting firm KPMG, Steve qualified as a chartered accountant (ICAEW) and transferred to the Cayman Islands in September 2001. In 2004 Steve founded financial services recruitment firm CML which grew to become one of the most successful recruitment firms in the Caribbean region. 

Today, CML provides recruitment and HR services to many of the world’s best-known professional and financial services firms. Inspired by a passion for helping people and companies perform at their best, he dedicated himself to the study and practice of Human Resources, qualifying in 2013 as a Global Professional in HR (GPHR, HRCI). There’s no zealot like a convert, they say. 

These days, as CEO-at-large, Steve spends most of his time working tirelessly to help his clients build great teams; his candidates and staff, great careers.

Never Quite There

You never quite know where your leadership journey is going to take you. Now, I find myself right in an interesting crossroad. It’s almost like being at the start of a new path. I just think, in leadership, every day is a new learning experience and you’re never quite there. But I love to challenge myself and I love to learn. I read a lot and I love talking to other leaders.

Like anything else, you learn from your mistakes. No one had a conversation with me to say, “You’re a leader in this organization and here’s what that means.” 

Looking back, I really wish they had. I’m not sure I would have listened, but I wish they tried, because it may have helped me avoid some of the mistakes I did.

The day you reach the end of your leadership journey is the day you should retire. - @cml_steve_mc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Agree What Needs To Be Done

Leadership is changing. - @cml_steve_mc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I thought, my transition as a leader was a well-trodden path because I started thinking about my job as a manager and as a boss who tells people what to do. 

But it dawns on you eventually that that approach just doesn’t work. 

So, my approach to leadership these days is not to tell people what to do but to agree what needs to be done, to make sure they have the resources and the support they need to be able to do it well, to continue the conversation with them about what their goals are, and what we can do as an organization to help them achieve their goals.

I think, if you do that, then, they start happy in advancing their careers, in developing professionally and in mastering their craft. Those are the things that make people happy. 

I don’t get hung up on how people do things anymore. I don’t try to enforce standards on people. We agree on results at the highest possible level. I help them reach that target.

Command and Control

The command and control style of leadership worked one time in the boomer generation because people have seen tough times in the society. 

They’ve gone to war and they’ve been used to some level of adversity. They’ve been used to following instructions. Maybe education was slightly different so it doesn’t encourage as much freethinking as it does today.

But know this: today, people come out of the university and they’re very smart. They have been taught to think freely, and they expect to do that in their jobs

If you just go and try to tell people what to do, they might do it in the short term, but it’s going to lead to all kinds of problems and conflict.

With a lack of autonomy, people are just going to leave. 

Whereas, if you just agree on what needs to be done and let them get on with it, it doesn’t always work out, but at least when it does work out, they’re happy. Over time, you end up with a team that is high performing.

Step up and make it happen yourself. - @cml_steve_mc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
The entire value of our company is driven by our people. The more successful they are, eventually, the more successful we’ll be. - @cml_steve_mc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
Your bosses are just humans, not superheroes. - @cml_steve_mc #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Steve on LinkedIn and Twitter

Grab a copy of his book here!

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Who is supporting your leadership?

Some of you might not be aware that this past Sunday, Mother’s Day, I spoke at the TEDx Colorado Springs event. There were so many turning points and milestones leading up to that day, but the one thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was the level of support my family provided me.

To participate in this event, it took nothing short of amazing amounts of tears and frustration. Honestly, I had to sacrifice some time with my kids so that I could perform at my best on that one day, during those 13 minutes of my talk.

The day before the event, I received word from the TEDX organizers that we would be on the news the following morning. It was optional and only a few speakers were selected. I was one of those speakers. I was already really exhausted from all the practicing and other projects and lack of sleep and mentioned the opportunity to my kiddos. Without hesitation, they said, “Mom, you have to do it.!” This was so uplifting. By seizing the opportunity, this would mean that we would get up at 3 AM and head over an hour away to arrive for a 5:30 AM news segment.

This didn’t phase my kiddos. They wanted this for me. They prepared themselves for the entire day and remained positive and supportive.

This got me thinking about who we surround ourselves with as leaders. Do the people that you keep close to you support you in the ways I described above with unrelenting support and belief, willing to do anything so that you can shine? Would you do the same for them?

As leaders, we often bring people onto our teams, because we need help, but then we discover that there is no alignment. What measures are we taking to ensure that our people are supporting our personal mission, vision and values? Will they stand or will they cave?

How appropriate for me to be with my biggest supporters on Mother’s Day. What’s even more inspiring than my talk was the level of commitment, pride and grit my kids showed while they embarked on the day that got them up at 3:00 and back home by 8PM that night. My 12-year old, 14-year old and 16-year old sat listening to 11 speakers before ever hearing me. They never complained and thanked me for the experience.

I thanked them even more for standing by me and supporting my leadership.


P.S. I will share the video once it goes live, which probably won’t be for about 2 months.

Please share this article with those who might benefit. I appreciate you!

62: Leaders With Heart Understand That Leadership Is An Iterative Process


In this episode, Heather speaks with Carey Jenkins, CEO of Substantial. Carey shares her unique outlook on her leadership journey, her leadership style, her refreshing outlook on the evolution of leadership and the power of mindset.

Key takeaways:

  • Be a continuous learner and seek fresh start in your leadership.
  • Be intentional in your leadership.
  • Be clear about your organization’s purpose.
  • A leader’s job is to serve the people he/she leads.
  • Leaders don’t need to be the hero, but to work with their team to be the hero.
  • Leaders need time to recharge.

Carey Jenkin’s Full BIO

Carey Jenkins believes in the power of transparent, empathic and direct communication in making stronger relationships in and out of the workplace. That’s why as a CEO of Substantial, she makes sure that more women seize more leadership opportunities and their strong connections with each other impact overall workforce growth in the company. She brings expertise in client relationship management, delivery management and business development. Carey is also passionate in building mutually beneficial partnerships with clients and team members. 

While not at work, she is deeply fond of staying at home with her husband and her five-year-old daughter. 

Massive Growth Opportunity

Nine months ago, I became the CEO of Substantial and it started my leadership journey afresh. I feel like a newbie, again, in a good way mostly. It was a huge moment for me, stepping into a lot of really uncomfortable places. 

I’ve never been a CEO before, so the entire role for me was new even though as a leader of the company, I have been doing many of the things that I still do now. But stepping into something that high-profile, with that much responsibility, looks tops for me. 

Sometimes it’s overwhelming but it’s just this massive growth opportunity and it’s really energizing for me. 

I am a big learner. I want to grow like I want to be a better leader today than I was yesterday. Although I make lots of mistakes, wins and things I am proud of, it’s a new day every single day, so I just try to be better and learn something. 

Create an atmosphere where people know how to progress. - Carey Jenkins, @Substantial #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Iteration, Improvement and Grace

When you have a bad day, you go, “How do I wipe that off the slate and start new?” 

I am big believer of new beginnings. I am one of those people who strongly believe in the new year, in birthdays, or these milestones that give you a moment to start fresh. And so doing it day to day is just a much smaller increment where you can iterate and improve.

A couple of years into my tenure year, I was really struggling in my career. I had my baby and I was coming back from maternity leave. That was incredibly challenging. Since my whole company is around iterations and continuous improvement, it’s very ingrained in the way we create and launch products. 

At some point, I connected this approach we take to digital products to who I am as a person and what my career is, and that’s what started this mindset. I can grow myself. I can iterate on myself. I can learn from one mistake or setback and it will actually make me stronger rather than weaker. 

Also, I started connecting the two things much more intentionally: this approach that’s broadly accepted as the best way to create and launch amazing products and to use that mindset to think about myself and my career. It was a real watershed moment for me.

I love that word grace because it gives you some breathing room. I will say that it’s a mindset I have to remind myself of. Even though I do it by route in product development, transitioning that mindset to your career, in your personal life, and in your own personal growth, I have to remind myself. That’s a journey I take every day.

Incredibly Intentional

I am incredibly intentional with the conversations I have about the way I support and mentor people and my expectations for what we are trying to do at the company and how people contribute to that.

I am a challenging CEO to work for, just like others. I challenge people and I expect a lot from them, so I don’t know that intentional always feels positive to them. But, it is the way, I think, you can create an intentional atmosphere where people know how to progress.

How can I develop empathy and emotional intelligence in the people I work with in their own way? - Carey Jenkins, @Substantial #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Things are changing so quickly in our space so it’s really about taking the moment to say, “Hey, who we thought we were and who we’ve been for over a decade is great. It has been successful and we have these phenomenal human beings who work here. But let’s think about the next three years, and I mean three years.” 

It’s because I don’t think the pace of change, thinking about who we are in five or ten years, is actually worth our time in this moment. I’m thinking in the three-year time frame because things change that quickly.

I was handed a change, an opportunity, and a moment to step up. - Carey Jenkins, @Substantial #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
Companies and teams don’t need a hero. They need a leader. - Carey Jenkins, @Substantial #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
Give yourself time to recharge. You should take a break. - Carey Jenkins, @Substantial #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Carey on LinkedIn and Twitter

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on iTunes!

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