Letting Other People’s Light Shine

Recently, I began conducting weekly Human Resources community power hours. I hope to provide a safe space for like-minded professionals to be in community with one another. This way we can share our thoughts and feelings in an open, self-led forum. The call is intentionally just for HR professionals, since I know we tend to prioritize others’ emotions above our own. As so-called “people persons,” HR professionals are naturally empathetic, and sometimes we lose sight of our own needs as we concentrate on meeting others’.

In the first meeting, the group was discussing community expectations—what we hope to get out of these calls, the future of this space, potential discussion topics, the structure, etc. One participant said they would love to discuss mental health. I immediately agreed and scheduled a future call devoted entirely to that topic. She suggested a fantastic idea, and I was more than happy to amplify it in our next meeting.

Later, I reflected on my impulsive support of my colleague. I’m often comfortable taking risks and letting others steer the direction of meetings, because I’ve experienced the value of diverse perspectives. As an HR consultant, I find that leaders want to keep the reigns firmly in their own hands and maintain control of the conversation. However, this unintentionally prevents others from being creative and innovative. Essentially, it stifles their motivation to raise new, exciting ideas.

I would caution you against hogging the spotlight for yourself for a few reasons. It is absolutely critical to let other people shine. Caring leaders want their team members to feel as if they’re in a place where they can grow, be recognized, and reach their full potential. If your employees truly feel this way, they will be empowered to exceed their own expectations.

When you recognize hard work and give credit to those that deserve it, they will feel an increased sense of loyalty to you and your organization. They will feel honored and valued for what they bring to the table. Not only that, but they will also feel more inclined to trust you, which begins with you offering them your trust. If you publicly accept input from others and share the spotlight, you will be perceived as a leader who trusts their team.

In short, no one likes when limits are imposed on them. As humans, we naturally want to be free from containment. If your employees feel like they can’t share ideas without being snubbed for credit, they’ll also feel constrained at work and be unable to excel. Just remember, collaboration at the office isn’t a zero sum game—when one of us shines, we all shine.

149: Leadership with Heart 2020 Wrap-up!

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In this episode, Heather helps us reminisce on her favorite episodes for 2020 in order to plan for 2021.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders get to choose how they think, behave and interact with those they lead.
  • Don’t forget the poster you have to show us as your best self. This helps those you lead show us as their best as well.

Prepare your hearts for this one of a kind wrap-up! Happy Holidays!!

Meaningful Conversations

I cannot believe going through the third full year with the podcast. It’s pretty exciting that you are part of it. As I think about the why behind creating this, I actually wanted to start off just having conversations with leaders who are more emotionally intelligent, those who can add a lot to the conversation related to caring leadership, and who show up with a lot of heart. I do not have other intentions but just to have good conversations to make sure other people can learn from them as I have.

I do not have other intentions, but just to have good conversations to make sure other people can learn. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Important Reflections

Over time, the brilliance of those who I was interviewing was so big and vast that I need to highlight them in a different way. That’s why I created the book “The Art of Caring Leadership” which comes out of April 2021. It includes over 80 of the leaders from this show. Their voices have been amplified inside this book because they are great teachers of how to show up with true heart.

I wanted to highlight a few of them as some of them have key messages—those that I tend to highlight already in the work that I do and the messages that I say. Let’s reflect on somebody’s past voices for 2020. First is Heather Loenser and Garth Jordan. They talked about the importance of empathy and how it is important to show up as empathetic leaders in the workplace, and to understand where our people sit. Next is Diana Steinhoff with the importance of compassion, helping our team build resilience, and understanding that compassion is the action behind empathy. We also heard from LaToya Lyn about the late John Lewis and her idea of creating safe spaces for others to follow. We also heard from the fabulous Michelle Nevarez about evaluating our thinking pattern as leaders.


During midyear, I made the announcement about “The Art of Caring Leadership” and I shared the Author’s Day I had with my publisher. It was so cool as my editor spoke about the importance of this book. We also heard from Benilda Samuels as she talked about helping others breathe through challenges and helping them build resilience. Early on in the year we heard from Cheryl Fullerton and she helped us remember to create psychologically safe environments where people feel comfortable in bringing everything to the table. Lastly, we heard from Don Davis. He had his focus on creating a vision for others to follow. 

The brilliance of those who I was interviewing was so big and vast that I need to highlight them in a different way. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

They are great teachers of how to show up with true heart. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Becoming Your Best Selves

Now, we are at the end of 2020 going into the new year unprecedented, and not knowing exactly what is going to happen and the direction it is going to be. But one thing I will tell you, we get to choose how we show up. We get to choose our thinking, behavior, and interactions with those we lead, whether formally or informally. Leaders with heart know that they can exercise emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and self-control so that they can show up as their best selves. This can allow those that they lead to turn and show up as their best selves as well. Hopefully you enjoyed 2020 with me, and you look forward to 2021 and all that it has to offer. I guarantee you it’s going to be a great year. We will flourish together.

We get to choose our thinking, behavior, and interactions with those we lead, whether formally or informally. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Leaders with heart know that they can exercise emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and self-control so that they can show up as their best selves. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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148: Leaders with Heart Bring out Others’ Strengths

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In this episode, Heather interviews Esmeralda Martinez, Migrant Education Program Director for the Southwest Region of Colorado. Esmeralda demonstrates caring leadership by advocating for those that are not at the table. In her line of work, that is primarily underprivileged students and their families. 

Where does Esmeralda’s drive to lead come from? Her beautiful and empowering familial history and the struggles they endured that became opportunities for success. Heather’s last podcast guest, Barbara Medina, recommended Esmeralda and was an example of bringing out the best in others. Esmeralda herself now emulates this as she uplifts and motivates her team, rallying them behind the mission of their work. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Advocate for those that are not at the table. 
  • Value each individual as a whole. What do they bring to the table? What are their strengths and talents?
  • Instill passion you can do that successfully, and you can achieve more together.
  • Uplift and empower others to do what’s right. 
  • Be true, and reflect that we may or may not be at our best, so stay consistent, focused, true and strong. It is not easy, but you are not alone.

Esmeralda Martinez is the Migrant Education Program Director of the Southwest Region at Adams State University in Colorado. 

Previous to being a director, she was a teacher and English Language Acquisition Site Coordinator for the Alamosa School District. She began her career teaching English Learners in 1997. This experience motivated her to obtain a Master’s Degree in Linguistically Diverse Education. In an effort to facilitate instruction for Spanish learners in their native language, Mrs. Esmeralda Martinez completed coursework earning her an endorsement in reading. Mrs. Martinez is a former member of the CABE (Colorado Association of Bilingual Education) board of directors. 

Her latest educational achievement was the completion of her Principal Licensure in May of 2013. Mrs. Martinez represents Colorado in the Interstate Migrant Education Council (IMEC) a National Policy Organization Advocating for the Nation’s Migrant Children and Youth. Mrs. Martinez currently serves as Vice-President for the Board of Directors for the Sierra Grande Scholarship Foundation, a nonprofit organization which provides high school graduates with scholarships to further their education. Mrs. Martinez was voted by the people of the Sierra Grande community to represent them as a Sierra Grande School District R30 School Board Member in 2015. 

She is currently serving on the Sierra Grande School Board as Vice-President. Mrs. Martinez also serves in the advisory council and steering committee for the College Assistance Migrant Program at Adams State University. Mrs. Martinez is an active advocate for all students. She spends most of her time planning and implementing programs that make a difference for those in most need of advocacy. Her passion embraces the needs of equity, justice and achievement for all youth.

Not At The Table

We all need teachers in our lives, especially now with a pandemic. Some of us parents have to do that role as well in supervising children while accessing their academics. It is challenging. I guess some people saw that I was a leader as I served in many committees in the school district that I worked for. I always have the objective of doing what is right, making a difference for children, and making sure that I was advocating for those who were not at the table.

I think about valuing individuals as a whole. What do you bring to the table? What are your strengths? – Esmeralda Martinez #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Making A Difference

I get up every morning and I think I get to do what’s right. Today I get to make a difference and I think I am blessed to have this job because I have an opportunity to make a difference for others. Collectively, we can continue to do this work more impactfully. I have lost a couple of employees and they have more time to do bigger and better things. But they are my biggest supporters. They may leave the work that they were doing before with us, but now they continue to support it. They always have these at the back of their brains: How can we work with migrants? How can we work to make a difference? How can we support that work, even though we’re not part of the team anymore? Remember, now you can support it from a different perspective. Creating our allies is very impactful as well. When you’re living in small communities and you have limited resources, you depend on that support from each other. To really make a difference in a child’s life, you need that team effort. You need that team approach. You need people in the community. Every support that this child receives is going to make a difference.

I am not saying that I am an expert, but I am willing to share some of those struggles and successes with you all. – Esmeralda Martinez #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Believe in the work that needs to get done in others. If you can do that successfully, then you can achieve more together. – Esmeralda Martinez #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Only Human

When things are just getting out of hand, I reflect on myself as a leader. What am I doing? What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Recognizing that is key. Recognize that again, as a human being, you have faults. It’s how you resolve those faults, and how you learn from the situations that will make you overcome that situation. I think about what can we do together to make sure that we solve this situation and move past it. We’re not our best maybe because we’re stressed, tired, or because of a personal baggage. It’s really important for us to also take time to recognize that we are human. We have faults and we need rest. We need to also take care of our ourselves to be better leaders.

It's really about uplifting others and empowering them to do what's right and to really make a difference in their communities. – Esmeralda Martinez #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It's perfectly okay to recognize that we're human and that we may or may not have all the tools to resolve a situation that's before us. – Esmeralda Martinez #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Tailoring Our Voices to Our New Normal

A couple of months ago, I hosted my first hybrid keynote event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A portion of the audience was in the conference hall with me, wearing masks and strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines. The rest of the audience attended virtually, watching and participating via teleconference technology.

In all honesty, it was absolutely delightful to hold a hybrid event. It felt so natural to return to the stage and be in community with an audience. After so many months in quarantine, it felt healing. I enjoyed being in proximity with other like-minded people, and seeing their eyes light up above their masks.

Of course I’ve felt at home speaking on stage for years, and over the past few months I’ve gotten used to speaking only to a camera or computer. But I’ve never had to bring those two formats into the same space and balance them simultaneously. In my keynotes, I lead with a very interactive and engaging speaking style. At times I ask the audience to answer questions, raise a hand, or stand in response to a prompt. In the wake of recent events, I’ve had to adapt my style to the digital realm, and find new ways of maintaining audience engagement. My first hybrid event was the ultimate test to see if I could synthesize my past experiences, and tailor my voice to a changing way of work, while staying true to my approach.

Though bouncing between the in-person and virtual audience was a challenge at first, I had to be comfortable rolling with whatever punches life threw at me. Caring leaders must do this too, by modifying their leadership approach to best fit whichever circumstances they find themselves in. 

My goal as a speaker is always to engage audiences and make them feel included, and this hybrid event was no different. Even from behind a mask, I still maintained eye contact and showed signs of active listening. I also had a colleague keeping tabs on the online chat, so she could give me real-time feedback and questions as they came in. I integrated all this information into my presentation right then and there, and let it guide my approach. In this sense, I symbolically brought my digital audience into the room, and made them feel part of the larger group. From the rave reviews in the chat, I could tell this gesture meant a lot to those who weren’t able to attend in person.

I talk a big game about engagement and inclusion, but I back it up by aligning my voice with those values in every aspect of my life. The same approach I use to make others feel welcome in my presence is the same strategy I use as a speaker, manager, friend, and even as a mother. By asking questions, allowing participation, and making my presentations accessible for all individuals, I’m always seeking innovative ways to host a space for others and show them that their voice is as important as mine. 

Caring leaders should open a dialogue that allows everyone to operate within a space that welcomes both their strengths and weaknesses. As we navigate this new normal, we must customize our methods to meet our people where they are—whether that’s behind a mask or behind a screen.

147: Leaders with Heart are Part of the Team

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In this podcast episode, Heather interviews Karen Erren, President and CEO at Feeding Westchester. As a leader of a non-profit food distribution service, Karen is familiar with showing care to others, but that doesn’t mean she was always a perfectly caring leader. 

What Karen shows in her conversation with Heather is the effort that leaders have to put in to be there for their teams, especially during these trying times. Karen exemplifies being a caring leader by taking her place among her people, not above them. She meets them where they are each day, and expresses the importance of genuine and transparent vulnerability. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Have high expectations for yourself and your team. 
  • The best thing you can do for someone is to believe in them.
  • Stretch yourself, innovate, and fail. 
  • See yourself clearly, and the way others experience you. 
  • Be a part of your team every day. 
  • Be genuine and transparent. Share as much as you’re willing and say, “But I’m here to work with you now.” 

Karen Erren currently serves as the President and CEO of Feeding Westchester.

With over 15 years of experience in food banking, and work experience in corporate advertising and marketing, Karen specializes in Strategic Planning, Fiscal Oversight, Relationship Cultivation & Stewardship, Change Management, Board Relationships, Fundraising, Major Gift Procurement, and Capital Campaigns among others.

Karen earned her degree in Communications from Stephens College.

Joys of Nonprofit

I have been here since late July, early August, but I have been in food banking for about 15 years now after corporate advertising and marketing. I loved the work of corporate advertising and marketing, but I had zero affinity for the product. So, transitioning from corporate advertising and marketing into nonprofit leadership really has brought me a great deal of joy and gratitude, frankly. My nonprofit journey was through fundraising and development, so it’s a mission instead of a product.

I do everything I can to lift them (my people) up and help them be successful. I have very high expectations of myself, my organization, and my team. – Karen Erren #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

My observation of my team is that the stress and concern for our community is counterbalanced, though not totally, by their commitment and passion for our neighbors who need our help. I have just been delighted, appreciative, and ecstatic that every single one of them is here honored to be able to do this work in a global pandemic, when our neighbors need us more than ever. One of the things that I really treasure about the Hunger Relief System is that we food banks provide food, for the most part, to food pantries, kitchen shelters, and other organizations that feed the hungry. It truly is neighbors helping neighbors.

One of the reasons that I consider it really an honor to serve our partners is because they know that neighborhood. So, when we go to food distributions in partnership with our pantries or other organizations, I love the dialogue that occurs between those that are sharing the food and those that are receiving the food— “How’s your grandma? Is your dad feeling better? Is your mom back to work?”those types of interactions that solidly tell the story that this is a community. These are people who care for their neighbors and want to make sure they have food on the table always. One of the things I think about a lot is the tough periods of time in my life where my family and our friends has sort of carried me through. What we find is that even pre-COVID, many of those who come to our pantries or our direct distributions for help, they just don’t have that network of people who can carry them through the hard times. Essentially our food pantries, and our direct distribution programs become that.  I love to tell our supporters that they are caring for someone’s mom, someone’s grandchild, or someone’s brother. In a family structure or situation that for whatever reason they don’t have that network, you are that network.


In a way, a silver lining to COVID19 has been that our hungry neighbors are more visible. – Karen Erren #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

You've got to try new things. You have to stretch yourself. – Karen Erren #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Treating Others

You got to try new things. You have to stretch yourself. You have to innovate and you have to fail. I have limitless examples of failure when it comes to leadership. When I was a younger leader, I was self- indulgent. I’m very expressive and very verbal, and I do say I have a very short fuse. I think we have to be willing to see ourselves clearly because there are the stories that we tell ourselves and there are the ways people experience us. What I most want to accomplish is that my team is as delighted to come to work every day because we work really, really hard. That is the lens through which I need to filter my decisions and filter my behavior and filter—the way that I treat others.

I want this team to be as delighted as possible to come to work every day because we work really, really hard. – Karen Erren #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

As you take on leadership, the way that you behave strongly impacts your team and organization. – Karen Erren #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Giving & Receiving Grace in Response to Workplace Harm

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual diversity, equity, and inclusion course. It was fantastic to be in community with other thought leaders and colleagues within the DEI space, and take our collective learning to the next level. Even as someone with years of experience in the field, I can always stand to learn something new from others, and I cherish that process.

On the first day we got to know each other and began to better understand our backgrounds. This early stage of relationship building can be awkward—and the awkwardness is exacerbated by the distance technology creates—but we were lucky enough to progress past this phase quickly. Our informal conversations allowed us to quickly understand where our hearts are, how our histories led us to this point, and what our hopes for the course were.

But as with any new group of peers, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. At one point, a Lebanese American woman, who presents more as white, was sharing a story. All of a sudden, she used the term “colored person” in passing, but it definitely struck a chord with those of us who caught it. Another participant, an African American woman from the South, rewound the conversation to correct her. She explained that “colored person” is an outdated and offensive term, and that she felt hurt by its use. The woman who said it was taken aback, as she hadn’t even realized what she said. She of course apologized, and we moved on.

The next day, we learned that the Lebanese American woman texted the African American woman in private afterwards, explaining that her intent was never to offend anyone, but that she takes full responsibility for the mistake. Whereas most people would try to brush off such a blunder or deflect accountability for it, this woman was vulnerable in admitting the harm she caused and listening to how her words affected those around her. The two of them brought this exchange to the larger group, and I was heartened by the display of camaraderie between all of us. We explained how we knew her intentions were positive, so we all felt safe in extending grace to her for an honest mistake.

These two women are perfect case studies for different yet equally powerful kinds of caring leadership. The person who made the hurtful comment demonstrated authentic self-leadership in how she expressed remorse, compassion, and vulnerability. Instead of getting defensive or angry, she listened to her peers and made a small commitment to not only repair the harm she caused on an individual level, but to better herself moving forward as well. On the flip side, the woman who called her into a learning moment exemplified the power of holding others accountable, and genuine forgiveness. She was mature and well-spoken in how she articulated the harm she experienced, and accepting and collaborative in how she opened up a dialogue with the person who offended her. Together, these two individuals used their relationship to teach the rest of us about all of these emotional tools, and how caring leaders can utilize all of them to give and receive grace when a mistake is inevitably committed in the workplace.

Of course, there will be some instances of offense that may feel too drastic to overlook or move past, and those moments will require a distinct set of strategies. But when you feel slighted by a comment made under someone’s breath or hurt by an offhand statement, I urge you to embody the characteristics these two women did. If you’re upset by something, give yourself the time to stop the operation and tend to that wound. If you cause distress by something you did, listen to why your actions caused harm, work with the other person to find a mutually agreeable solution, and internalize the lessons learned. At the end of the day, mistakes are inevitable, but failing to learn from them isn’t. We only evolve when we open ourselves up to the mere possibility of growth.

146: Leaders with Heart Recognize and Unleash the Greatness in Everyone

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In this Leadership with Heart episode, Heather interviews a seasoned leader, Barbara Medina. Dr. Medina was recommended to be on the show by one of the many caring leaders that she helped develop during her time in the Colorado Department of Education as Assistant Commissioner

Caring leadership techniques were ingrained in Barbara from childhood, when she was growing up on the family farm. There, she learned the importance of collaboration, mutual benefit, service and mission. Even the littlest one makes a contribution on the farm, and this is true in organizations as well. Barbara took her natural foundation in leadership to great heights in Colorado government advocating for ESL students and helping develop many caring leaders along the way (who hopefully will be joining Heather on future episodes!). 

Key Takeaways:

  • Everybody has something to provide the organization. Leaders have to help them see this even if they haven’t already. 
  • “I need you to be brilliant, I need you to be bold, but I need you to be brief” also be balanced. 
  • Invest your energy where you can make the biggest difference. 
  • Recognize what people bring to the table, before you invite them to lead with you. Think of it like a party invitation. 
  • Obligation to do your best work will drive you and feed your souls, and you can’t do anything better with your time.
  • Leaders, be gentle and practice good compassion with yourself. 

Dr. Barbara M. Medina has served K-12 students and educators throughout her career. She holds a doctorate in Educational Policy from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

From her first position as a educator serving students in a rural migrant summer program to her leadership at the Colorado Department of Education as Assistant Commissioner she has been actively involved at the district, state and national levels in the areas of language and literacy for diverse populations, cultural and linguistic diversity, qualitative research methods, and school reform. 

Grounded in K-12 practice, Dr. Medina began her career as a social studies classroom teacher she served as Coordinator of Secondary Second Language Programs in Boulder Valley Schools.  As Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Adams State University, Alamosa, Colorado, she accessed federal grants to serve rural districts through graduate programs in Literacy, Special Education, and English Language Development. In 2006 Dr. Medina was appointed as Director of the Office of Language, Culture, and Equity at the Colorado Department of Education. 

Dr. Medina’s most recent administrative position was as Director of English Language Acquisition, Denver Public Schools. Dr. Medina worked to re-negotiate the modified consent decree with the Office of Civil Rights.  In the spring of 2013, Dr. Medina began work as an Educational Consultant. Her consulting is known as 3milagrosconsulting, appointed as an adjunct faculty she has worked with the University of Denver, University of Colorado at Boulder, Regis University, Aurora Public Schools, DELTA schools a charter school incubator firm.  Beginning in 2013 to the present she consults with IMEC, the Interstate Migrant Education Council on issues and policy development for Migrant students on several projects including reauthorization of ESEA and “Promising Practices in Migrant Education”.  She is also currently affiliated with MPI, (Migration Policy Institute, Washington DC) as an MPI Associate on migration policy issues, the education of immigrant and refugee students, teacher professional development for students learning English as a second Language.

Dr. Medina has served on several boards including CASE (Colorado Association of School Executives and Education Specialists), Diversity and CAES, CABE (Colorado Association of Bilingual Education).  Dr. Medina recently completed two terms on the City of Denver’s Denver Human Rights Council, Appointed by Denver Mayor’s Hickenlooper and Hancock to the Latino Commission..

Collaborative Contributions

My parents and grandparents were great examples of service and collaboration. Being first generation on one side, it gives you a hunger. Your parents sacrificed so much for a better life for you, to make sure you had a better chance. So, you honor that sacrifice and you’re always reminded of what obstacles they faced. They teach you about collaboration and service in many spoken and unspoken ways. You have to work together. In my environment, everyone works. Even the littlest one makes a contribution.

You have to recognize what people bring to the table before you can help lead them to serve with you. – Barbara Medina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Brilliant, Bold, and Brief

You always have to be really clear about mission and your vision, and they have to be shared.

I was working with young people as a teacher, realizing that not everybody had the same start place, so I kept on trying to create opportunities so they could improve. At the back of my mind I was always about making sure that the children I taught had the same opportunities and the same access I did.


I served as an Assistant Commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education and I was the first Latina to be in that role in an appointed position and to last six and a half years.

I just didn’t want to be the last person to have those opportunities. When you have an appointed position, you have a very short period of time. When you have that pen in hand, you have to be very directive, but you also have to be really clear that you have a short mission politics comes and goes. Power changes can change swiftly and so you’re in a leadership position, you better write it and you better write that well. I used to tell my team, “I need you to be brilliant. I need you to be bold, but I need you to be brief.”

You have an obligation to do your best work. – Barbara Medina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Every person has something to bring to the organization and you have to help them see that. – Barbara Medina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Best self, Best work

When you meet people, you have to invest your energy in them as well. You have to help them see past what they’re currently doing, to see what they were, and how they can make the biggest difference. All you push for every day is where can we make the biggest difference, where can we have leverage.

You have to recognize what people bring to the table before you can help lead them to serve with you. It’s like an invitation to a party where you say, We’re going to do some amazing things together. I can’t do it by myself and I need you to be your best self. You have an obligation to do your best work, and you keep that in front of you.” That’s going to drive you and feed your soul because you know it’s meaningful work. We make our worst decisions and we treat people the most off-considerate when we’re overtired, not rested, too caffeinated, or when we hadn’t set our own balance around us and we are not centered. So you have to really guard.  You have to really protect a part of yourself that keeps you whole and healthy mentally and physically because it’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint. When you do make mistakes, you have to own them and you have to apologize, which is for them.

We have to start with leading ourselves. You can't lead anybody else or an organization unless you can lead yourself. – Barbara Medina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I would just ask leaders to be really gentle with themselves and to practice good compassion for themselves. – Barbara Medina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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How Outside Opinions Help Us Gain Clear & Conscious Leadership Vision

I’ve worn glasses since I was eleven years old. I attribute my nearsightedness to watching way too much television when I was younger, and my vision has only gotten worse as the years have passed.

A while ago, I was having difficulty seeing clearly out of my glasses, which was beginning to impair my productivity and ability to lead others. So I scheduled a check up with the optometrist to see what was going on and get some medical advice. For some reason, I didn’t end up taking their suggestions; perhaps it was a timing conflict or an effort to save money, but the point is that I shrugged off their counsel without a second thought.

As you might guess, my vision continued to worsen, until I had no choice but to do what the doctors said. Of course, when I took their advice and updated my prescription, it was like magic. Suddenly I could see everything in incredible detail, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off me.

This moment reminded me of how leaders often get jaded with time, or their judgment becomes clouded under the fog of endless responsibilities and lengthy to-do lists. When we feel overwhelmed, we fail to see people as they are, which can cause problems. I myself have gotten bogged down in my own issues, buckled under the pressure, and suffered from tunnel vision that prevents me from openly receiving outside opinions.

When we get caught up in our own filters, lenses, past experiences, and blindspots, we tend to believe that we are the only ones capable of solving our problems. But just as I was incapable of (literally) seeing the solution to my vision problem, caring leaders should recognize that the input of others is an effective way to consider new ideas and solutions. We all need external support to see clearly and innovate our way through challenges. Taking advantage of this kind of help isn’t a sign of weakness; in fact, the opposite is true. Accepting assistance is a sign of humility and self-awareness, and an astute use of the network you’ve built for yourself.

Ask yourself, who in your circles do you turn to when you’re having trouble seeing clearly? These champions could be a professional coach, a close friend, peers or coworkers, a trusted confidant, therapists, or even a family member. Bringing in outside perspectives can also include reading literature and consuming content you wouldn’t typically expose yourself to. They say what we read today walks and talks tomorrow, so now is the perfect time to start developing that foundation of fresh ideas for future obstacles. The more help we accept in developing our leadership vision, the more support we benefit from, and the more we can pay it forward to others.

145: Leaders with Heart Show Others How to Be Grateful

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In this episode, Heather speaks directly to listeners about gratitude, resilience, and how leaders help those they lead reframe and focus forward.

Key takeaways:

  • Help your people become resilient.
  • Use gratitude as a resilience-building tool.
  • Curate experiences that change the frame.
Hope you don’t miss this short but sweet episode. Listen and learn!

Lasting Traditions

It’s a tradition that we have in our family that at Thanksgiving, we talk about what we’re grateful for at the table. We share stories of others and those who are maybe less fortunate than us, the things that we want to do better for that, as well as the following year to really show up better for other people. The following day is a cheery day as we put on our ugly sweaters, get to our trees, listen to music, and have hot cocoa, chocolate, and cookies. Today is that day, but I would be remiss if I did not get on here and thank all of you, the listeners.

It wasn't about (their) perfection. It was about (their) imperfections and how (they were able) to move from that place. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Imperfect Brilliance

For two and a half years of doing these podcasts, listening, talking to amazing people, and really hearing them share great stories, it is because of you that I continue to have these conversations and have great guests. As many of you have referred them to me, we’re able to reveal their brilliance. 

Don’t forget the book that’s coming out next year, “The Art of Caring Leadership.” It is based upon the interviews I’ve had on this podcast with these brilliant people. When I got to episode 25, I realized a lot of people don’t listen to podcast and I have got to get these people’s voices on here. I have got to amplify their brilliance. 

It wasn’t about their perfection. It was about their imperfections and how they were able to move from that place, of maybe being stuck as a leader to a place of more enlightenment, and greater treatment of their employees. I know that they’re delivering better experiences out there because they’re more emotionally intelligent. They’re showing up with more care.

We were all put here to do something. We were all put here to be someone. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Focus on what it is we were put on this earth to do. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More of Them, Less of Me

It really is less about me and more about the people that I highlight on this show. I want you to know that I’m grateful for you. Right now, a lot of people are hurting in this world and they don’t know a way out. My message for you today is to try to be that way out for them. Try to be a message of hope for them. Try to be the light for others to follow. I had a lot of darkness in the early years of my life and I wanted to be the light for others. I wanted to show up in a different way. So, show up as that light for other people to help them see a different path forward right now when the world is chaotic. Give as much as you have yourself. Give your time, essence, and energy to those who need you. Help them light a way for a new path that they have to go on.

Be very intentional about setting up the proper environment that creates the right mindset, and the right behaviors that'll help your people see a future that is brighter than what’s right in front of them. – @HeatherRYounger… Click To Tweet

We focus on creating cultures of listening. – @HeatherRYounger #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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What Inclusion Means to Me

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, my clients often ask me, “what does inclusion mean?” But the more apt question would be, “what does inclusion mean to you?” We each carry within ourselves entirely unique backgrounds and identities, and those subjective experiences invariably determine what we consider truly inclusive environments. As a result, inclusion will look, sound, and feel completely different to different people.

So what does inclusion mean to me, Heather Younger? 

Let’s start with the basics.

To me, inclusion does not mean the exclusion of others. It means embracing every member of your team with open arms despite whatever differences distinguish them. But it also means not quite erasing those differences for the sake of superficial unity. In honoring those distinctions, we transform would-be outsiders into welcomed insiders.

To me, inclusion means full and unconditional acceptance. I often say that acceptance sets us all free, and I believe this is so because acceptance is the primal core of our needs. When we’re born into our parents’ arms, we want them to accept us—flaws and all. We have a deep-set desire to be seen and loved for who we are, and one way to do this at work is to accept our people however they come to us, including their past baggage. Inclusion is the comfort in meeting others in their fullness, and accepting whatever messiness or complexity that entails.

To me, inclusion means empowering those we lead, not belittling them by way of passing judgment, micromanaging, or banishing all talk of personal matters from the office. It means you work with them to collaboratively push through tough projects, you demonstrate trust by intentionally delegating big projects, and you respectfully ask about their personal life to signal you care about their entire experience as a human. When employees notice this level of compassion, they feel they can show up for their workday as their authentic selves.

To me, inclusion means having tough conversations. This includes welcoming dissenting or controversial opinions to the discussion, because everyone should feel safe enough to voice their perspective in an inclusive environment, even if it goes against the grain. It’s really easy for us to invite those we like, those who look like or act like us, or those we agree with to the table. Nonetheless, our invitations, whether implicit or explicit, must advance and include the whole of our team, especially those from minority viewpoints or identities. In this sense, inclusion is an acknowledgement that every team member is a human being worthy of respect, dignity, and the benefit of the doubt. It is both the invitation to speak and the validation that you heard them that makes all the difference in helping everyone feel supported.

Perhaps the crux of my definition of inclusion is an emphasis on family in the broadest sense of the word. As I deliver keynotes on stage on this very topic, my sole purpose is to bring everyone into community with me, and create a safe atmosphere of mutual acceptance. My goal is to create a family, even temporarily. If my audience feels truly accepted, just for a moment, I know I’ve done my job and created a culture of inclusion, and that’s what inclusion means to me.