44: Leaders With Heart Never Undervalue Their People

In this episode, Heather speaks with Marylene Delbourg-Delphis. She is a powerhouse of knowledge both in the academe and in the corporate world, having led multiple companies and boards. She talks to Heather about her unique leadership journey, her work on her book Everybody Wants To Love Their Job, and what leaders should focus on.

Key takeaways:

  • Leadership is a conversation.
  • Believe in the ability of people to learn and they will.
  • Never undervalue your people.
  • Good leaders make it a religion to be accessible to their people.
  • Walk around to connect with your people.
  • Not everyone needs to be a leader.
  • Leading is not for yourself, but for others.
  • Leaders need to process data they receive from others.

Marylene is truly all about employees, workplace culture, and organizational health. Listen and learn! Enjoy!

Marylene Delbourg Delphis' Full BIO

One of the first European women to start a tech company in Silicon Valley, Marylene Delbourg-Delphis has been the CEO of four companies, and has helped multiple companies of all sizes in all sorts of business areas as a management consultant or a Board member.

She started her professional life in the academe. She was also a journalist and an author. Her book, Everybody Wants to Love Their Job: Rebuilding Trust and Culture, relies on her extensive experience as an executive, a considerable body of organizational studies and an in-depth analysis of the emotional makeup that drives employee belongingness and a culture vibrancy using Workrise, a platform based on behavioral economics methodologies.

Attuned Leadership

I would call my style "attuned leadership." It incurs two main components.

One is the conversational leadership component. Second is conscious attunement process that enables employees to feel that they belong in the company I run.

The idea is that conversation, not rank, title, nor power, defines our relationship with our employees. As a result, this style stands in sharp contrast with the traditional command and control management model.

It is supported by four main attributes called, “The Four I’s of Organizational Conversation.” 

These are: intimacy, which defines how we relate to employees; interactivity, which describes how leaders use communication channels; inclusion which drives how leaders develop organizational content; and intentionality, which characterizes how a leader convey the strategy.

But of course, this conversational leadership doesn’t come prepackaged. It requires an attunement process that creates a culture of belongingness among the employees.

The reason why I want to attune myself with others is because I believe in people. I believe that they can learn, and I can learn from them, too. I did experience this when I was teaching Philosophy. I was so shocked to hear my colleagues complain about their students because they weren’t good enough. My reaction was, “If they’re not good enough, it’s because you are not good enough.”

People protect themselves by closing their doors. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Charisma is not enough

We have to be somewhat self-centered to dream of starting a new venture, or running a great department. But we have to accept that it’s not all about us. As powerful as our aura, or influence maybe, they will not instill a sense of belongingness around us. We may impress. We may inspire. But real charisma alone doesn’t create the level of comfort and ease that generate belongingness in others.

It actually requires some effort. But I would say that mavericks, unorthodox people or non-conformists probably have fewer problems than regular people. Because when you are a maverick, you don’t take anything for granted. So, we have to make an effort to be understood. The obstacles we face heighten our will to set up the bases for a more collaborative thinking environment.

During my short years in the academia, which I loved for its intellectual content, I was not comfortable with the idea of only living in the fairly static or slow-paced world of research. I love the complexity of change, big or small. What pushes me to lead is the desire to communicate change, and to invite people to be part of a changing world.

My personal disposition is to never undervalue people, and their ability to learn. If I bring something to them, I should be equally open to let them bring something to me. Because companies don’t innovate—the people in the companies do.

As we help them change, they also change us. Having to put yourself in the shoes of strangers helps you build a different image of who you are. All of a sudden, you rediscover yourself through the eyes of others.

To be understood, you have to understand others. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Accessibility and Disconnect

I always find people around to remind me of who I wanted to be. It was never pleasant, but it always works very well. Basically, as a CEO, we tend to settle in an ivory tower, especially when we are very busy. But we have to keep in mind, as Jack Welsh said, "good leaders make a religion out of being accessible."

We want to be inclusive. We want to be attuned with others. But, sometimes, we forget. We revert to more internal mode, because we are so focused with our things. We forget that we do things with these people and not simply with ourselves.

Getting feedback and listening to people is incredibly energy-consuming if you do it seriously. #leadershipwithheart. Click To Tweet

Leaders who are struggling to connect are usually narcissistic leaders. They want to run a company made of cogs. If they are disconnected, it’s because their workforce is disconnected. The workforce has gone away emotionally. Struggling leaders are like actors without an audience. As a result, there is no identity.

You don’t need to be a leader. But if you are, you have to be on a network. You have to be with others. You are not a leader for yourself. You are a leader for others. You need data that others give to you. You have to process them. Being an emotional leader is not about you. It’s about your ability to process data coming from other people.

When employees express their emotions in a harsh fashion, it's usually because they haven't been listened to for quite a while. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
From a point-of-view of a company, work is a means to an end. But from the point-of-view of an employee, work is their livelihood. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with Marylene on LinkedInTwitter, and through her website

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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.

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

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An expert in creating spaces for these vital conversations.

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


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  • Understand why listening is the key to improved engagement
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