51: Leaders With Heart Promote Love In The Workplace


In this episode, Heather speaks with Renée Smith, Director of Workplace Transformations for Washington State, about her leadership journey, her innovative approach to infusing love in the government, her challenges as a leader and some very clear ways in which leaders can show more love and care for the people they lead. You wouldn’t want to miss this and you’ll probably listen to it twice!


Key takeaways:

  • Once we decrease fear in the workplace, we increase love.
  • When we bring more humanity into the workplace, we increase performance.
  • We need to invite people to be more real at work.
  • Emotional responses need to be more understood.
  • We need to get comfortable leading our people through emotional circumstances to build more trust.
  • Help your team feel loved and cared for.
  • Help, to create a family atmosphere. 

I love her focus on people and her mission to make government more human. This will surely be a listener favorite!

Renee Smith’s Full BIO

Renée Smith is passionate about making the workplace more effective and humane. She champions the development of A Human Workplace community and commits to Making Work More Human by increasing love and decreasing fear in the workplace.  

Currently, Renée is the Director of Workplace Transformations for Washington State as part of the Governor’s Results Washington Office. Prior to that, she served at the Department of Enterprise Services leading the Organization Development Services division.

She earned a Master of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University and received the Governor’s Leadership in Management Award for her original strategy work and Lean culture work at DES in 2014. Renée is a doting mother of four.  

Less Fear, More Love

I get to advocate for a decrease in fear and an increase in love in the workplace to make work more human, specifically making government more human.

I asked my executive, “What do you think is the most important job of a leader in the context of this work? He immediately answered to “eliminate fear from the workplace.” 

It was not a new idea, but it was certainly  a beautiful and brilliant expression of what we have been trying to do, what we have seen our executives trying to do, and what we are encouraged to do through our leadership in the agency.


Fear and love are the two primary human emotional experiences that we have and everything emanates out of one of those. If we want to create an environment where people are going to take risks, be honest about the challenges they face, post their performance date on the walls and talk about problems, if we want them to do all the things, if we want them to empathize with customers and create different kinds of experiences for them, then, we’ve got to create an environment where they can do that, and that starts with love.

There is way too much fear and pain in our work. But I think people are ready for something different.

We need whole, real people in our workplaces. #leadershipwithheart Share on X

Better Together

As a young person, I already found my way into leadership roles especially in high school.

Back in the day, I learned about communication, decision-making and basically how to bring people together, help teams to be efficient and be able to have a good time.

I was curious about how we can bring people together so that everyone’s included and create that experience that is high performance and highly human. The more human we can be together, the better our performances.

How do we help and optimize what’s possible but not be so brutal on people? I’m a person who likes change but I certainly had lots of team members who don’t. Most people are freaked out by change naturally, so I love thinking about how to help people get through that in a more human way.

It's not only our brain and body that should be present at work, but also our identities, intuition, spirit, emotions and our connections to each other. #leadershipwithheart Share on X

The Pain of Sitting Still

As I formed my career at a later point in time, I had a moment of being behind. 

I was surrounded by people who had been doing well. I knew I had things to contribute. I knew that my unusual early experiences as an adult were relevant but they didn’t look the same as everyone else’s. I had to figure out the leadership I wanted to bring and how to do that. It took a while for me to figure out exactly how to do that.

People will follow people who are real. #leadershipwithheart Share on X

As my hesitation held me back, I realized that the pain of sitting still and watching other people do the things that I also wanted to contribute was greater than the fear of stepping forward.

I had things I want to say and share. I wanted to participate.

As leaders, we have to lead people through painful circumstances. #leadershipwithheart Share on X
Know your people and take interest in them. Help them to learn and grow. #leadershipwithheart Share on X


Connect with Renee Smith on LinkedIn

Learn more about A Human Workplace

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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.”

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