35: Leaders with Heart Know that Their Leadership is Formed by the Conversations they have with Their People

In this podcast episode, Heather speaks with Mareo McCracken, about his leadership journey, his unexpected story that served as a catalyst for his current leadership mindset and he shares with us pearls of wisdom.


Key takeaways:

  • New leaders often seek control when they are new to their role.
  • Real leaders help others see the vision, want to follow it and empower their people to do something about it.
  • Leadership is giving people courage to try something new.
  • Leaders need to be led as well.
  • Leaders must be more active in the lives of the people they lead.
  • Leaders need to be focused on others and not themselves.
  • How well you lead is determined by how good your conversations are with your people.
  • Take time to get to know your people.
  • If you are thinking about yourself first, you are starting on the wrong foot.

These are just some of the takeaways from this rich conversation. Listen in!

Mareo McCracken’s Full BIO

Mareo McCracken is the Revenue Leader for the software firm Movemedical where he leads the Sales and Marketing efforts. His passion is helping others live their lives with courage. He focuses professionally on helping organizations grow at the intersection of organizational health, individual performance, and revenue.

Courage, not Control

For a long time, I thought leading meant being in charge. 

Often, when you’re not in a leadership-titled position, you feel like you don’t have control over the things you want to do.

You think you get more control by being a leader but, what I’ve learned is that leaders often have less actual control, because they rely so much on the people you lead that there is even less that you have the ability to actually do yourself.

Some people are born natural leaders. But there’s lots of other people who have to learn how to become a leader, and have to learn to get the right mindset because they realize, in order to do this the right way, “I have to lead others from a different perspective, a different place in my heart and mind.”

Of course, the goal is to help people. I do believe in encouraging people and giving people courage. Courage is taking action in everything that stops us from taking the right action.

As a leader, if I can possibly help someone have enough courage to take one step, to just do something that they’re not doing today, then that’s my main focus and my main job. 

That’s ultimately the goal. People who feel important will do anything for you.

Once we embrace the idea that we are leaders that is when we starting realizing how much more we have to go, learn and grow.” #growth #leadershipwithheart Share on XIf you can’t learn to delegate and empower, you cannot really be a leader.” #equip #empower #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Courage is the ability to take action in the face of fear, grief or pain.” #courage #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Aligning is Important

When I decided to move to Movemedical, I went from leading a team to being my own sole proprietor: no employees, nobody to lead besides myself, to back to managing people in a team. And, I didn’t do the transition very well at first. I thought, “Okay I’m going to delegate. I’m going to let people do their thing, and I’m not going to micro-manage.” That’s one of the worst things you can be as a leader– a micro-manager.

After a few months, the President of the company took me for a walk, and he said, “You’re not coaching. You’re not training. You’re not leading the people the way they need to be led. They have problems and you’re not helping them solve them.” I’m like, “Yeah, because I want them to solve them on their own, and then I’ll give guidance when they ask for it.” And he’s like, “You’re not a reactive leader. That’s not why you’re on this team.” 

I had to be told where I was falling short, and that’s actually what good leaders do. They have candor. They’re radically transparent, and they let the people they are leading know when they’re not performing, as well as when they are performing, of course. They’re saying, “That’s not who you really are, so I would need you to live and act who you really are.”

So that was a big eye opener. It was about 3 years ago when that happened. And I realized, all these stuff I know, learn, remember, talk, and myself, I was forgetting it, I wasn’t doing it. 

And that was a big eye opening moment where I decided, I have to be more active in the lives of the people I’m supposed to lead. I can’t just be there. I have to be, actually with my mind and heart, helping them overcome their problems, not just waiting for them to come to me.

When you get so focused on your actual tasks, you stop thinking about other people. There was a time when I didn’t think about other people the right way, I was thinking more about myself and what I had to get done, and not necessarily aligning my vision and values with that of the team. 

Leaders need to be lead as well.” #courage #leadershipwithheart Share on XWhen there is misalignment, nothing ever works.” #align #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Leadership is Conversation

It’s conversations, and that’s all leadership really is. It’s different types of conversations, and those conversations can come in a variety of forms. It can be email, it can be one-on-one. It can be one-to-many.

Different people have different needs, wants, and desires. You have to find a way to meet those needs, and give them what they want in the type of conversations they need.

Some people need to build a lot of rapport. You need to get to know people better, and then you can skid down to business. Other people, they just want to get the work done because they’re so focused. And if you spend time having the wrong type of conversations, they’re going to shut off.

It just takes time to get to know the people. And so really, if you take the time to get to know someone, you’ll figure out how they need to be led. And as long as you can remember that – that comes from not thinking about yourself, it comes from thinking about them. And you remember how they need to be led, you can change your behavior to match what they need. And then once you give them what they want, you can then help them become who they need to become.

If you’re thinking about yourself and how you’re feeling, most of the time you’re going to be wrong. Because as a leader, it’s not about you. There’s a difference between leading yourself, which is very important, and leading others. If your role is to lead others, if you’re thinking about yourself, you’re thinking wrong. In order to feel better, and to change your actions, you just have to start thinking about other people, thinking about their wants and needs, then things usually write the course after that.

Leadership is different kinds of conversations.” #talk #leadershipwithheart Share on X


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Leadership With Heart With Heather R Younger

“Heather’s courage and vulnerability to share her authentic self are truly inspiring. She shares the most cutting-edge leadership strategies on topics like emotional intelligence and employee experience. If you’re looking to sharpen your leadership skills, this podcast is for you.”

Heather is a Workplace Culture Expert


CEO of Employee Fanatix

A leading workplace culture and employee engagement consulting & training firm.

A highly sought-after keynote speaker

Bringing the best insights from over 25,000 employee stories to the stage.

A top company culture strategist

An expert in creating spaces for these vital conversations.

A contributor to leading news outlets

A trusted expert for stories on workplace culture, customer and employee engagement, and employee retention.


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Through this guide, uncover how to ensure those in your care at work feel heard and valued, resulting in increased loyalty and satisfaction.

  • Understand why listening is the key to improved engagement
  • Learn how the Cycle of Active Listening contributes to strong workplace relationships
  • Get a practical framework for creating a listening culture that is bidirectional, responsive, and supportive

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