165: Leaders with Heart Show Grace

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In this episode, Heather interviews Eddy Badrina, CEO of Eden Green and Co-founder of Buzzshift. This 20-minute podcast is filled with insightful information about his innovative company Eden Green and what it takes to be a leader. Eddy attributes most of his leadership values to his parents, who immigrated from the Philippines with little to their name and made a life for themselves in Houston, TX. From a young age, Eddy was shown what he refers to as “sacrificial leadership” by his parents who would send over 50% of their income back to the Philippines.. 

Eddy Badrina has an impressive background which includes working in President Bush Sr.’s administration and being a co-founder of Buzzshift. Now as a CEO, he is the most essential leader of the company and in this podcast, he shares with us the knowledge he has acquired over the last 20 years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Eden Green technology is on a mission to change the way farming is done and people are being fed. 
  • Good leaders don’t compare themselves to others, they compare themselves to who they were yesterday.
  • Grace is not common in business, but it should be. 
  • You are more than your company and you are more than your title.

Eddy Badrina is based out of Dallas, TX, and is the CEO of Eden Green and Co-founder of Buzzshift. His company Eden Green Technology is a vertical farming technology company that seamlessly combines traditional greenhouses and technological greenhouses into one, where they offer the greenhouses themselves as the service accompanied with the management, overseeing, and staffing that comes with vertical farming technology. 

Before Eden Green, Eddy co-founded Buzzshift, a digital strategy agency, and also worked for many years in the US Department of State with various leadership roles. He graduated from Texas A&M University and the Bush School for Government and Public Service. Eddy has over 20 years of experience in growing organizations and leading teams.

Being self-aware

If my leadership journey was a marathon I like to think that I’m probably in mile 13 or 14, I’ve hit my pace and now I’m just trying to improve with every mile. Good leaders don’t ever compare themselves to others, and I don’t like to be visionary or futuristic, I just work on becoming better than I was yesterday

In a marathon, I’m probably in mile 13 or 14, I’ve hit my pace and now I’m just trying to improve with every mile. – Eddy Badrina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Where I Learned How to Lead

My parents came to America from the Philippines with little to their name and they were able to slowly establish themselves in Houston, and establish leadership positions within the community. I watched them do this as they worked, and as working immigrants, they would send over 50% of their income back to the Philippines while still maintaining their own household. I learned how to be a leader by simply watching my parents live their everyday lives.

The really good self-aware leaders aren't trying to compare themselves to others. – Eddy Badrina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

It's a legacy to lead. – Eddy Badrina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Ethical Roots to His Company

I joined the company in 2019, and what I really fell in love with was the reason why they wanted to create this business. The founders are two brothers from South Africa, and one year they were passing out food at a South African fair when a five-year-old boy came up to them and started hoarding all the candy. At first, they were confused, and let the little boy know that there was more candy – and that there was no need to take it all at once. The little boy replied with “ this isn’t for me it’s for my sister, today I don’t eat”,  and that was when they realized that there were still children in the world that we’re not eating. Both of the brothers are engineers and they came up with this idea of having a more economical and environmentally friendly approach to farming, and when they approached me with the idea I just couldn’t say no.

There was this demand inside our household for excellence and diligence in whatever we were doing. – Eddy Badrina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I think if people had more grace in the business setting businesses would be more robust in the long-term. – Eddy Badrina #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Modeling Caring Leadership Behaviors in Hard Times

caring leadership behaviors

If you’ve been following my blog or my journey, or if you just found me, you may have heard that on Tuesday, April 13th, I published my second book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. And, while I’ve written about Caring Leadership extensively in the past, today I want to give you all a glimpse of some of the Caring Leadership behaviors that my book outlines and details with real-life examples of Caring Leaders. 

Together, we will explore what it means to model these Caring Leader behaviors, but rather than discuss them at a general level, I will reveal four Caring Leader behaviors demonstrated in a common organizational struggle. 

How many of us have been a part of an organization going through a major change, one which affects all levels of the business? Well, I have been through times like these, and I recently heard about someone else’s similar experience and was inspired to write this post.

What organizational struggle am I referring to? The merger. If any of you have ever been through a merger, then you might be all too familiar with the power struggle and chaos of reforming an organization from top to bottom. 

A participant in my weekly HR Community Power Hour recently shared with me the hardship of a merger and the clouds it has cast, making it hard to pinpoint where exactly Caring Leadership exists within the organization. The scale of change brought about by a merger can take up all of the leadership team’s time and energy, leaving them little room to focus on other important things—their employees and their wellbeing. 

Before you can have a great leadership team, you have to have great leaders. Each one must stand in their own shoes, understand the behaviors of a Caring Leader, and choose to dedicate themselves to these behaviors and actions each day within and outside the walls of the workplace. 

If you find yourself as part of a leadership team while your organization enters into a more stressful or demanding phase of change, I challenge you to hone in on the following Caring Leadership behaviors: Self-Leadership, Make Others Feel Important, and Creating a Listening Culture.

How does a leader model Self-Leadership? Why is this specific behavior one that deserves attention, especially when work seems to zap all of our time and energy?

If you are constantly giving of yourself to big projects and time-consuming problem-solving, you are clearly a leader that finds themself caught up in the day-to-day operations of the company, with little or no room left for the act of leadership. I challenge each of you to take a small step back and choose to focus on your own needs at least once this week. How can you show yourself empathy and compassion amidst the fast-paced and demanding nature of your work? How will you exercise self-care and by consequence, self-leadership this week?

Me? I’m going to get my workout in each day, because I know without that “me time” each morning I won’t be able to focus or give as much of myself to my work and the people that deserve my undivided attention. 

How does a leader model Making Others Feel Important? Why is this behavior crucial, especially when our jobs seem to be keeping us on the edge of our seats as our organizations steamroll through crazy times?

If your company is in the trenches of mapping out a merger, then the operational requirements of overseeing this change probably leave little room to invest in the parts of your organization that exist independent of this change—your people. After you take some time to meet your own needs this week, I challenge you to raise your head from the work in front of you and to turn towards your employees. Extend the warmth of greeting them with empathy and compassion. If you are stressed and feeling worn down through this trying period, then I guarantee your employees are feeling those exact emotions. Showing them appreciation and attention, especially when the going gets tough, will prove to them your level of true care. 

How does a leader model their ability to listen? Why is this behavior absolutely important when we find ourselves and our organizations stretched too thin in the face of rapid change?

When we find ourselves bogged down by work that demands our full attention, we tend to lessen our focus on how we show up, as stress and time constraints weigh us down. When I think back on that conversation with my colleague on that HR Community Call, I imagine that the leaders who were creating confusion and tension were, themselves, feeling the same. As a leader, your job is to guide the people. You lead your team. Before being able to assist with operational tasks, you must be there for your employees. The best way to show them you care and help lessen the blows dealt by experiences like mergers is to turn your attention to them and listen to their concerns, opinions, and needs. And then affirm what you hear through action. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take in feedback, process it, act upon it, and then connect the dots for those who provided the feedback on how you intend to move forward. 

If you are interested in learning more about the other 5 Caring Leadership behaviors, you should read The Art of Caring Leadership. If your interest extends beyond just reading the book, then I would like to personally invite you to complete The Caring Leadership Self-Assessment, join the Caring Leadership Community, and consider taking a course, or working with a coach in the Caring Leadership Academy

I look forward to welcoming you to every aspect of this Caring Leadership ecosystem my team and I have worked so hard to create, to help develop Caring Leaders and improve organizations across the globe!

164: Leaders with Heart Embrace Your Crazy

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In this episode, Heather interviews Janine Williams, the CEO and Founder of Impulsify, a software company that equips businesses with simple, affordable technology solutions. She refers to herself as a “reluctant CEO” who believed in a product and decided she wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Janine believes in “The Adversity Advantage” and her story is quite unique. Her obstacles to overcome adversity began as a young girl and she is proud of what she has built today. She credits her outcome to her foster mother, Mary Elizabeth Hudson, who changed the course of her life from a troubled teenaged girl to a CEO. Janine is vulnerable, relatable, and you can just tell she has the biggest heart – most importantly, she is honest and aware of her flaws as a leader. Listen to Janine’s story as she takes us through what led her to where she is today.

Key Takeaways:

  • Embrace The Crazy.
  • Don’t listen to the naysayers.
  • Surround yourself with entrepreneurs, business developers, and like-minded individuals.
  • Being a CEO means that she doesn’t get the privilege to put her negative emotions onto her team. 
  • When you truly believe you are better than the situation you are in, you will do anything possible to get out of it. 
  • Recognize that resumes, schools, and experience don’t always mean that the passion, drive, or grit will be there. 
  • Give others the opportunities you wish someone had given you.

Janine Williams is the CEO, and Founder of Impulsify, a software company that equips businesses with simple, affordable technology solutions. She refers to herself as a “reluctant CEO” who believed in a product and decided she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She has been a “reluctant CEO” for 8 years now with a successful company based out of Denver, Colorado. 

She had no previous experience with software – she was actually an English major – but she saw an opportunity and truly believed she could fill it. Many people doubted her but this served as her motivation. One day she went on Facebook to search for someone who could build software, and that person has now been her partner for the past ten years. Janine and her partner have successfully scaled the company to what it is now and have plans to continue on this upward path.

Believing in Yourself

  • Janine Williams is a single mother of four, an English major, and a teacher who taught Shakespeare. She had no idea how to build software but she was good at marketing. She actually met her business partner through a Facebook post (who now does the coding). 
  • Her drive comes from proving the people who doubted her wrong. She isn’t big on resumes or experience – she wants the passion, grit, and drive. 
  • Janine takes a lot of pride in going from “basically homeless” to becoming who she is today. She has a tremendous heart for women and young girls who are constantly doubted and deprived of opportunity and does everything she can to uplift them and give them a chance to succeed just like Mary did for her. 
  • Janine opened up about losing her temper six months ago and it leading to the loss of one of her beloved employees. She was honest about regretting this behavior and it made her realize that the leader doesn’t get to have those moments towards their team. That situation made her lose a great employee and was a huge learning lesson for her – now she tries to avoid that by taking more time for self-care, vacations, and spending time with her family.

There is no wrong path to finding your leadership, but there is something unique in people who overcome adversity and then use it as a positive rather than a crutch – Janine Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Turning Adversity Into a Positive

  • Two months ago she lost her foster mother who took her in when she was 13 because she was living alone. She lost her in January and decided to honor her through her LinkedIn post. This post went viral and is actually how Heather found her. She wanted to show people that someone can have such a grand effect on someone’s life, her foster mom saw potential in her and that changed the entire course of her life. Now millions of people know Mary Hudson’s name. 
  • Her leadership style: “The Adversity Advantage”, “there is no wrong path to finding your leadership but there is something unique in people who overcome adversity and then use it as a positive rather than a crutch”.

There is nothing that you can't do when you truly believe 'I am better than this situation' – Janine Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

People ask, 'How did you do it? How did you transfer from teaching high school English to running a software company?' And I was like, 'Google!' – Janine Williams #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Seeing an Opportunity and Taking It

  • Janine has previously launched a company similar to amazon that would supply hospitality industries with their needs, like Marriot, where they could use a single interface to order their supplies instead of having to go to Costco. 
  • Before her software, they didn’t have a way to track what sells/doesn’t/demand. Millions of dollars in retail sales were not being tracked. 
  • She saw this as an opportunity and is where her current company, Impulsify, was born from.




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Caring Leadership Came Alive During the Pandemic

Today is the day that my second book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading With Heart Uplifts Teams & Organizations, officially launches!

Of course, I’d be lying if I told you I embarked on this journey alone, or that the journey has been an easy one. At the beginning of the pandemic, and for the first few weeks thereafter, I felt nervous. Often, in a down economy, leadership and organizational development services are the first to go. As a speaker, trainer, coach, and consultant almost everything shut down for about two months. It was nuts!

But when I turned my attention back to the manuscript for this book, I realized it had never been more timely. My publisher offered me a grace period given all we were facing, but instead I kept that first deadline in my mind and raced toward it. I didn’t want to wallow in the temporary pause on business. I wanted to honor my commitment to my editor and my promise to myself.

Now, on this day, April 13, 2021, my book dreams have become a reality for the second time. This is the day that thousands of copies of The Art of Caring Leadership drop ship around the world to places like Japan, Switzerland, and Dubai. The impact of my words and the words of over 80 leaders who I interviewed for the book will empower leaders to uplift teams and organizations everywhere!

The more global leaders read my words and the real stories of leaders who understand what it means to lead with heart, the better. And the best part is, we’ve created an entire system to support them! From a Caring Leadership Self-Assessment, Caring Leadership Community, Caring Leadership Academy, and even Caring Leadership coaches. You can find out more about those here.

It is my dream to see leaders in any role express more concern and kindness toward those they lead in consistent ways. I know, deep down, that this will result in their team members finally feeling valued for who they are – and not just what they can do.

I have had very few leaders in my life to whom I refer to as caring. That’s because it IS hard work and, up until this point, not clearly defined. I can tell you that, when I think back on those who consistently expressed that they cared for me, my heart smiles.

Thus, I invite you to not only embark on a Caring Leadership journey with me, but to remember the moments when you experienced caring leadership for yourself. What did that feel like? Hold onto that. Those memories and those feelings will get you through the desert moments of leadership.

If you focus on leading with heart, you will touch lives.

For me and so many other leaders, the need for caring leadership came alive during the pandemic. Consider this your invitation: to do your part to ensure the light of caring leadership continues to burn brightly, no matter what crises we face in future.

163: Leaders with Heart Lead with Compassion

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In this episode, Heather interviews Taneshia Nash Laird, president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, the vintage 1925 performing arts center in Newark, NJ. The way that Taneshia came to be on Heather’s podcast reveals a uniqueness that accompanies this episode until its end. 

The first word Taneshia uses to describe her leadership style is compassionate. This deep found sense of compassion that Taneshia claims to strive for, is revealed through each story and experience which she shares. Taneshia is an incredibly compassionate leader, an imperfect, eager to grow, caring leader in development. Please listen to her story to find some inspiration for your own.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders are coaches, investing in people professionally. 
  • Caring Leaders guide their employees towards their respective destinations and heal the organization. 
  • Have a willingness to invest in your people.
  • Discover and unearth the strengths of your team at the earliest opportunity. 
  • Leaders have the positive power to change the lives of those they lead. 
  • Fill the space created through the lay-off process with compassion. 
  • Recognize that the work is not more important than your team’s self-care and health. 
  • Take the time to ask, ”is there anything I can do to help you navigate through these times?”

Taneshia Nash Laird is president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, the vintage 1925 performing arts center in Newark, NJ. As a social change agent, Taneshia centers cultural equity in her work. In her career in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, she has been a city and state official for economic development, a regional director for the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, and co-founder of the MIST Harlem venue in NYC.

An in-demand speaker about the intersection of arts, entertainment and economic development, Taneshia is a member of the board of the National Independent Venue Foundation and co-chairs the Save Our Stages Implementation Task Force of the National Independent Venue Association. She is also president of the board of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the influential community arts nonprofit co-founded 25 years ago by siblings Danny, Russell and Joey “Rev. Run” Simmons.

Taneshia is also an adjunct professor in the B.S. in Entertainment and Arts Management degree program at Drexel University and a visiting professor in the M.F.A. in Creative Arts & Technology at Bloomfield College.

Resilience is key

I am leading a 95-year-old historic Performing Arts Center in a community of color, which is one of the reasons that I was attracted to the role. The organization wasn’t just in decline but in crisis. So, I am turning around a historic organization and venue, and leading it through the global pandemic. Resilience does describe my background professionally and personally. This is the third nonprofit that I’ve run. I’ve been a for profit,  nonprofit, and a municipal appointed leader so I’ve been a trisector leader.

One of the things I have to figure out is how to balance being a compassionate person but also still setting some good, firm expectations. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Investment on impact

I like to think that I’m a compassionate leader. When I came there, I found that not only had the building been neglected, but the people had been as well. The building needs a $40 million renovation. So, I’m leading a pretty significant capital campaign to renovate the building and to also turn the organization around. I also like to think that I’m more of a coach. A lot of what I’m doing is supporting them in terms of their journey and their career, as they hadn’t been invested in professionally in developing their skills. I felt that it was important to invest in those people. They were really punching above their weight, because I was asking them to do a lot, but it was very targeted and was very focused. We also put together a customized professional development plan for each of the employees and my colleagues, as well. Investment on impact to the Community—that’s the way I approach.

Give colleagues some space during this time and be understanding that it's high stress. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I'm more of a coach. A lot of what I'm doing is supporting them in terms of their journey and their career. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Putting compassion

I remember my first nonprofit role about 15 years ago where I had to make a staff change, and I really felt like I could have done that better. I could have been more compassionate. Sometimes you do have to make these changes, and it’s still a horrible thing that you have to do to meet the objectives. Most recent case, frankly, is the pandemic, so loss of revenue and ability to continue to carry for full staff, but now I’m better at laying people off. It’s still difficult, please don’t get me wrong. It’s very difficult, especially you have to do everything, what gets in all these situations. You have to do everything in a particularly legal way and it doesn’t leave as much room. But as much room as it leaves, I put compassion.

Work is important, but your self-care and your health are actually more important. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

In order for the organization to move forward, I can't be coddling all the time. – Tanesha Nash Laird #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Caring Leadership Is a Team Sport


I am a fast-moving person who drives for success. I also lead with my heart. Often, I am moving so fast that I outrun my own capabilities, and I have a hard time asking for help. When I take the time to pause, I release the need to control everything around me and invite others in. This is the only way I am successful in moving forward. Consequently, I often learn that I must allow others to help me shoulder the burden. 

It is in my nature to want to control everything, which may be why my career has guided me here. In the past, I have learned that this type of management style is not productive for myself or my team. Thankfully, I realized this many, many years ago. Now, I teach others what I had to learn the hard way. 

I believe that involving others and making it a team sport is the most productive thing a leader can do. For one, it takes the stress off from your shoulders and allows you to focus on the big picture. Additionally, it will enable the team members to show up and make a contribution. 

I’m a firm believer in the Richard Branson mentality of “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” The goal is to uplift every team member and expand – this will result in higher productivity and easier organizational expansion. 

Being open and letting your team know that you need help does more than increase productivity. It demonstrates that as a leader, you are not perfect. It shows that even though you are the leader of this organization, you need the team’s help to accomplish goals. Allowing your team to feel like they are part of the big picture will help in the organization’s long-term success. Being vulnerable and allowing your team to be part of the solution demonstrates caring leadership and builds the personal relationship that you have with your team. 

The most successful and beloved CEOs provide caring leadership whether they recognize it or not. For example, Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, is highly personable with his entire staff. He takes the time to learn the first and last names of his employees – no matter what seniority level they hold. This type of personal relationship with his employees is what makes them loyal to his organization. Whether it be marketing, finance, or operations, he knows his people and can involve them in the decision-making process on a personal level. 

On the other hand, leaders who do not allow their teams to participate will often have less productivity as a result. This is because instead of being involved, the team members are simply just completing orders. This type of leadership is the opposite of what I strive to teach others, as it results in lower productivity and employee satisfaction. This combination is harmful to the organization and is a perfect storm for unhappy employees. 

In my book, The Art of Caring Leadership, I dive deep into how to involve your employees in the decision-making process successfully and how to delegate tasks with ease. I encourage you to pre-order my new book here as I go more into detail and share the stories of other caring leaders who are from around the world.

162: Leaders With Heart Need to Have a Loyal and Dependable Team

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Matt Manners, CEO & Founder of Inspiring Workplaces. Matt shares his well-founded perspective that the traits of a caring leader are those of a caring human being. Matt’s mission, and that of his company, is to make people’s lives better inside and outside of the workplace.

Matt’s whole leadership philosophy is about recognizing others and shining the spotlight on the most deserving of employees throughout organizations worldwide. Leaders with heart know, like Matt, that you need to have a loyal and dependable team, by being a transparent and dependable leader. A Caring Leader will never have to face challenges alone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders with Heart are approachable and lead by example.
  • People with purpose and challenge are what change things, not technology.
  • Everyone is a leader, because people can always see you.
  • You want to be the leader that faces a challenge and turns around and has a team waiting there willing to support them.
  • Leaders don’t have to own everything, they can and should share their burdens.
  • It’s not healthy to hold everything in and shut down.
  • Quote from Rocky Balboa-if you’re struggling at work or home
    • “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Matt Manners was born into a half English/ half Irish media-obsessed family. A journalist grandfather, a grandmother who said he was blessed by the blarney and a father who led a top communications agency. So storytelling has always been very important to him.

He followed in his family’s footsteps for the first ten years of his career, living and working in London, Sydney and Boston helping organizations communicate with their customers. It was near the end of this period he began focusing on the CX and ultimately the number one influence on it…the employee experience.

The lack of appreciation of and investment in the EX by leaders and businesses drove Matt to invest all he had in the world to create The Employee Engagement Awards. To recognize and tell the stories of those that dared to try new things. Things that would enhance the people experience for the benefit of both them and the organization. Over five years The EE Awards expanded around the world and evolved into much more than just engagement and awards. Evolving into a global community, an academy, a content hub, events, a foundation and it also did awards.

So in 2020 it felt right to bring it all together in a new home called, Inspiring Workplaces. An organization that wants to change the world, with you, through the world of work.

Evolving and Maturing

My (leadership) style, I think, is evolving as I mature as a person. A lot of the traits we talked about when we try and distinguish between work and home, inside and outside of work, are just about who you are as a human being. I think I’ve matured a lot in the past three or four years—being approachable, leading by example, and open to new ideas for sure. It doesn’t come easy. Like most things worthwhile, you have to work really hard.

What kind of leader do you want to be in the future? – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Making lives better

We were basically built to recognize people that were trying every day to improve the experience of people they work with and to better the organization. That became my life’s purpose. As we evolve, we did much more than the awards. We did conferences and we had all these amazing stories of people and the work they were doing around the world. It is a community where we work together to solve issues. We have the awards, the academy and the conferences. But at the heart of it is our people who just believe in the same thing—let’s make our lives better inside and outside of work. We’ve probably all had negative experiences at work where you just aren’t treated that well. I’ve never wanted to treat anybody the way I’ve been treated in the past. Therefore, I want to make places of work great places to work, psychologically safe, and inclusive so people can bring their true selves, open up, and give their ideas to the business. If people love what they do, then they’re going to deliver better customer experience. Hence, the world will become a better place and businesses will perform better.

Keep moving forward. Just keep going and things will get better. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I don't believe it's just technology that changes things at all. It's people with purpose and passion. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

How Winning is Done

I’m going to quote Rocky Balboa from the film Rocky. There’s this one passage in one of the last movies, that I think just rings true if you’re struggling whether at work, at home or both. He said Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It will beat you to your knees, if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” I don’t believe it’s just technology that changes things at all. It’s people with purpose and passion.


f you look at what’s happened over the past couple of months, I get really excited because that means it’s going to be a lot of money and we might start evening up the scales between customer and employee experience. It’s an exciting time for those people who have struggled for so long to get a voice in the boardroom.

Let’s make our lives better inside and outside of work. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you actually focus on the people within an organization, there’s a huge impact on the customer experience. – @Matt_Manners #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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Does Your Organization Understand the Art of Caring Leadership?

caring leadership

In my experience working with organizations of all sizes, every leader thinks they are a caring leader and even those who don’t secretly aspire to be one. Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, many will fail to demonstrate caring leadership consistently. Their actions or inactions towards colleagues looking to them for leadership and guidance often highlights a distinct lack of self-awareness.

What does an empathetic, compassionate and caring leader look like? When working with leadership teams, most can quickly identify what caring leaders don’t do. Bad examples include failing to respond to employees’ requests, micromanaging teams, or showing favoritism to some while excluding others. We have all been on the wrong side of a leader that does not care, takes you for granted, and wants you to stop asking so many questions and get the job done.

By contrast, caring leaders live and breathe their values. You will find them listening intently to what their employees need to empower them to do their best work. These are the leaders that effortlessly unlock increased employee engagement and loyalty by simply showing they care.

When helping organizations unlock the intelligence, they need to improve their employees’ quality of work-life, the results do not happen by accident. I join them on their journey and try to be purposeful and aware of who I am and where we are going together. By being brave enough to recognize our perceived gaps and try to fill them, we collectively understand that the path to a caring leader is an evolutionary process.

I have made mistakes that can be painful, but they also served as exciting opportunities to learn. By changing and improving ourselves, we earn the right to stay on the journey to caring leadership. If we do not set our intent from the start, our entire trip will feel like an accident. 

With my Leadership With Heart podcast, it was my intentionality and curious mind that helped me find caring leaders who exercise their power to be more emotionally intelligent in their communications and interactions. Carey Jenkins, CEO of Substantial, a digital strategy firm, described her focus on intentionality around her mindset and her conversations with those she leads.

Carey told me, “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.” As a direct communicator, Carey does not leave others guessing. For her, being intentional is all about being very clear about expectations and how others can contribute their gifts to the mission. 

 On my podcast, I also spoke with Ron Alvesteffer, CEO of Service Express, who shared how the secret to his success was moving away from the traditional leadership style of saying, “Go do this for me.” His alternative approach involves asking employees, “What are the roadblocks? What do you need from me?” By solving the problems holding back his teams, he could empower the people who deliver business results.

I have worked closely with organizations to increase their leadership prowess through leadership development and executive coaching services and recorded over 160 podcast interviews with business leaders. These stories of individual’s ongoing struggle to become leaders and express more care for those we lead inspired me to write my new book, The Art of Caring Leadership.

The book includes inspirational leadership stories, including Howard Behar, former president of the Starbucks Coffee Company; Judith Scimone, senior vice president and chief talent officer at MetLife; Garry Ridge, CEO and chairman of the board of the WD-40 Company; and Shawnté Cox Holland, head of culture and engagement at Vanguard. 

What did I learn? Employees will go the extra mile for leaders who show they are genuinely concerned with what they can do, who they are and can become. The book is aimed at leaders who want to learn how leading with heart can uplift their teams and organization. But I also invite you to share your caring leadership stories with me.

161: Leaders with Heart Surrender

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Mechelle Roberthon, Vice President/Director of Talent Development at Home BankHeather and Mechelle both share the opinion that this episode is like being in “Leadership Church”. It is 35 minutes filled with rich wisdom and inspirational stories, which we guarantee will fill you up and leave you motivated for the rest of your day, or even your week. 

Lessons learned and discussed in this interview extend beyond the realm of leadership into the reality of being a caring person. Mechelle’s gracefulness, graciousness, mercifulness and willingness to surrender demonstrate the powerful traits that make up caring leaders as well as the hearts of good people. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Be transparent, apologize often, and solicit feedback all the time.
  • Be forgiving. 
  • Be consistent—in your home life, your work life and your personal life.
  • Have self-awareness, but make sure you follow up with action. 
  • Surrender is hard, and feels like weakness like you’ve lost. But surrender is such a strength: to be able to bite your tongue, to resist an unkind gesture, and to move forward.
  • Give your employees grace because you are going to need their grace. 
  • Awareness is huge-be aware and over aware, of who you are, not who people want you to be, or who you hope to be, but be aware of where you are right now including your faults, so you can receive feedback and understand better how to grow. 
  • Your work as a leader is not more important than the work of your direct reports. 
  • Just engross yourself in leadership development, like this podcast. Also, articles, books, you’ll get hooked on a philosophy then work to make it your own.

Mechelle Roberthon is a Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) through the Association of Talent Development. She serves at the Vice President/Director of Talent Development for a community bank in Louisiana; which has 40 locations across 2 states. 

Mechelle is the 2021 president of the ATD Baton Rouge chapter and was a 2020 20 under 40 recipient; an award for young leaders in her region. Her background includes training delivery, performance improvement, managing learning programs, and interpersonal/business/personal skills. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Learning and Organizational Change from Baylor University. She holds a Masters of Science in Education with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. 

Mechelle is also an experienced career and professional development instructor. She has taught over 500 corporate courses with her evaluations consistently rating above average. Her dynamic teaching style has become a favorite amongst learners. 

Encourage, Excel, Evaluate

I think my leadership style could probably be described as encouraging. I’m going to develop you. I’m going to give you autonomy. I trust you to do what you need to do. I will take the time. I will carve out the time for you to make sure you have all the resources and all the tools you need. I hold them accountable. I demand excellence. I’m also transparent as a leader. I apologize often if I think I’ve wronged or offended you. I solicit feedback all the time. It’s just who I am.

I think employees should always assess their leader. How can a leader get an evaluation if no one talks to the people they're leading? – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Provision, Awareness, and Surrender

I don’t think I’m stagnant, but where do I have the opportunity to become better? My philosophy is, if I can love up one my people who report to me, I’ll give them everything that they need. Not only will this be an enjoyable place to work for them, but they will thrive. You take care of them, and they’ll take care of the business.


Surrender is hard. Surrender feels like weakness. Surrender feels like you’ve lost. Surrender feels like you’ve quit. But surrender is such a strength, though, as well as maturity. I’m still young and maturing but surrender is such a strength. To bite your tongue is such a strength. To resist unkind gestures is such a strength. Awareness is huge, leaders—being over aware. Be aware of who you are, not who people want you to be, who you hope to be. Who are you right now, flaws and all, because the more aware you are, the more prepared are you for any type of feedback you receive.

If I can love up one my people who report to me, (I’ll) give them everything that they need. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I'm still this work-in-progress. I don't know if you ever really arrive, but I take all of those (learnings) and I'm always trying to sharpen (myself). – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Graceful, Merciful, Reflective

Who I am today has a lot to do with my spirituality. I’m more graceful, more merciful, and more reflective. I try to be gentler. I try to model these biblical principles so that it’s not a separate life—not this is not my home life and then I’m a different leader at work. I just want to be the person the Bible wants me to be. That shows up in how I lead so I’m way more reflective in 2021 than I was in 2011. I’m way more gracious now than I was then. I apply those principles in my real life, and my real life is my work life. All honor and glory to God because that’s how I get through every week, every day. I pray and read my Bible regularly because I know God is gracious. I’m way more forgiving in my life now than I have ever been. Who I am as a person, like at home is who I am at work. If you talk to my direct reports and my husband, they’ll say the same thing about my opportunities and strengths. I just want to bring my full self, and my full self is my spiritual self.

Give yourself grace. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I try to let my team know that they are leading with me, not for me. – Mechelle Roberthon #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations

I have worked with many organizations of all sizes throughout my career and helped them transform their employee engagement and leadership development. After earning my stripes throughout multiple industries, I am often affectionately referred to as the “The Employee Whisperer.” My ethos is simple, as an empathetic person, I deeply value the contributions of everyone, whether directly or indirectly, on my team.

Everyone who is reading this will have encountered managers who genuinely cared for them and those who did not. Those who do not genuinely care leave employees feeling like they are just a number. You may have found yourself thinking or overheard others say, “I don’t understand why they do not care about all my efforts” or “They don’t care about the hours I work; they just want me to get the work done.”

By contrast, those managers who made you feel that you had an important role to play in a team’s success and the organization would have gotten the best out of you. After what seemed like a lifetime of repeatedly hearing and reading about these same scenarios and experiences, I set out to clearly define what caring leadership looked like and how leading with heart uplifts teams and organizations.

My work, combined with insights from 80 podcast interviews, inspired me to write a book called The Art of Caring Leadership. I wanted to create a blueprint that would empower any leader to form their own masterplan to show they care in very definitive ways. Ultimately, I wanted to help readers understand how the ROI of diversity, inclusion, and belonging can transform their company culture and improve their business performance.

After 12 months of working from home, many teams will be collectively feeling that their world has been turned upside down. An increasing number of employees will also be feeling battered and taken for granted, and that whatever they offer will mean nothing to the organization. Although some think they are a caring leader, they will unwittingly steer the organization into even more stormy waters if they fail to address these issues.

We all know good leaders who carefully avoided the dreaded “micromanager” title when working alongside their colleagues in the office. Unfortunately, when asked to lead their teams in a new remote working environment, many lost their way and drifted into micromanaging tactics. However, in this period of uncertainty, caring leaders automatically reached into their toolkit of skills, aptitudes, and attitudes.

A ‘command and control’ or ‘my way or the highway’ approach will do more harm than good in any organization. Jim Reuter, president and CEO of FirstBank, shared with me the importance of authenticity “I think one of the most important things is to know yourself. People see authenticity, and they know it right away when they see it, and they’ll get behind that.” By learning the value that relationships and focusing on authentic communication can bring, you can also drive better performance and results across the entire organization.

Caring leaders understand that they must care for their people before expecting anything in return. When I spoke to Dirk Frese of Julabo USA about the power of connection, he told me: “Sometimes you cannot look each other in the eyes, but if you listen to the heart of the other person, then you can connect, and when you connect, you can empower your staff, or you can empower your customer, and motivate him or her.”

In another conversation, Mindy Flanigan, founder, and chief inspiration officer of Inspiring HR, shared with me, “One thing I’ve learned, whether you’re remote or you’re in an office with the people that work with you every day, you’ve got to give everybody individual face time.” This separate undivided attention helps those we lead feel genuinely seen and valued for just being themselves.

These powerful quotes are just a few examples of the real life leadership experiences that I feature in my book, The Art of Caring Leadership. I believe that leaders who invest their time in reading and learning from the stories of other caring leaders will become known as leaders who genuinely care and proudly lead with their hearts.

Over the next few weeks, I will share other inspirational stories that highlight the transformational impacts that caring leadership can bring to every organization. You can find out more details and pre-order my new book here. But I also encourage you all to reach out and share insights from your own leadership journey with me.