Caring Leaders to Watch in 2021

We have all worked for managers that took us for granted or made us feel like just a number. On the flip side, some leaders make us feel valued and crucial to both our team and the organization. We will go the extra mile for those that show they care about our wellbeing and value our work. Leading with your heart can uplift teams and transforms performance. It’s time to upgrade your leadership journey.

Caring leadership starts with leaders who care for those they lead. Leaders who are committed to seeing people succeed, not just for what they can do for the team or organization. They understand that caring is imperative to their future success. But it must be an authentic expression and come from their heart.

The caring leader is not the manager who never responds to an employee when he requests. Neither is the manager who micromanages every little thing leaving her employees feeling squeezed away from independent thinking and action. By contrast, a caring leader excels in the domain of soft skills, such as integrity, communication, empathy, compassion, responsibility, and positivity—and produces real results that drive an organization forward. 

There is much more to leadership than achieving performance targets. Modern leaders are not afraid to improve their emotional intelligence and recognize the negative impacts that their words, actions, and inactions can have on their teams. Much has been written about what a bad leader looks like. I wanted to put those that are the living embodiment of caring leadership on a pedestal and celebrate the impacts of what happens when you put people at the heart of everything you do.

In this article, the leaders I highlight have been handpicked for their display of many of these soft skills, which influence how they show up for those they lead when at work.

Benilda Samuels

Benilda “Benny” Samuels joined Rose Community Foundation in March 2020. As vice president of programs, Samuels directs the staff of the programs department in granting approximately $10 million annually in the seven-county Greater Denver area. Samuels was named one of Colorado’s 2020 Top 25 Most Powerful Women by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

In this period of uncertainty, the world can feel like a strange place in terms of how we relate, tolerate, and lift each other up. Benilda is tackling social change from a different angle and proudly manages with intentionality. She is passionate about helping younger generations in the workforce by supporting their vision and resolutions for people living in poverty.

Benilda proudly declares that people should always come first; tasks come second. By bringing people close to you and not being afraid to pause amidst adversity, she has a unique way of helping others breathe through challenges to ensure they are not overwhelmed and overtaken by a situation.

In our interview for the Leadership with Heart podcast, Samuels shared the importance of pausing through adversity to tackle issues head-on together. Personally, I have had the pleasure to watch how she shows up and supports others in the world.

Listen to our interview now

Connect with Samuels on social media: LinkedIn 

Claude Silver

Claude Silver is VaynerMedia’s Chief Heart Officer, and she is passionate about creating spaces for people to thrive through the culture of empathy. Her success in guiding client relationships, global brand strategies, operations, and management can attest to that. 

For Claude, everything is about relationships and connection. She has embarked on a constant quest to discover new ways to hold space for people and bring growth opportunities to them with professional growth workshops and corporate team-building sessions. She’s not afraid to admit that she doesn’t have all the answers, but she is committed to helping her people find their own. 

Claude shared her belief that connection is the beginning, middle, and end. When combined, it builds trust. She prides herself on making sure that every person feels recognized. It could be anything from a high five, an email, a wink, or anything. But this is not just a leadership strategy, it’s in her DNA to actively listen without an agenda and has become a big part of her life’s work. 

During our conversation for the Leaders With Heart podcast, we talked about Claude’s leadership style, the unique ways she engages with her team, how her “real” way of leading grows those around her, and much more. She is someone you’d want to sit and talk with for a lifetime. If you pay attention to social media, you will often see Claude on video pouring her heart and soul into amazing leadership gems from which all of us learn.

Listen to our interview now.

Connect with Claude on social: LinkedIn – Twitter – Website

Daniel McCollum

Daniel is the CEO at Torrent Consulting. He is a Certified Salesforce Consultant with years of CRM and Salesforce experience. A firm believer of the “Greater Growth, Greater Impact” mindset, he is passionate about raising up impact-driven business leaders. Daniel has 15+ years of project management and technology solution experience across various technologies and organizations. He deeply fancies his family, as well as living overseas.

Daniel is passionate about raising up leaders and giving all people that opportunity regardless of economic status, race, or religion. Leading with his heart, he firmly believes that together, we can make an impact on the world. Daniel encourages his people to think bigger. He shared with me why it’s so crucial for leaders to set a vision that might be bigger than they thought they could do.

At a time where we are surrounded by adversity in the world, Daniel believes that courage is the willingness to face fear and move through it. By empowering his teams to think bigger, he actively helps them find the courage to make decisions and take those little steps in the journey to develop them as a leader.

In our discussion with Daniel McCollum, he shared how raising up other leaders and caring for the people he works with is what brings him the most fulfillment. Daniel’s organization created Torrent Academy, a 2-year Salesforce analyst training program, empowering marginalized Guatemalan youth to break out of poverty through formal employment.

Listen to our interview.

Social: Twitter 

Diana Steinhoff

Diana Steinhoff currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Product and Strategy at Life & Absence Management Administrative Solutions and has a demonstrated history of working in the insurance industry. She is a strong business development professional skilled in strategy, communication, organizational leadership, and product development.

Many perceive compassion as a virtue of “softness,” but on the contrary, it requires courage. Diana shared with me the necessary skills to master the art of compassion. She believes the essential qualities of a good leader are authenticity, intentionality, and positive and constructive feedback.

Diana leads with her heart and proudly declares that her place in this world is to help individuals. But these are much more than words. She has created safe environments for her employees to operate, succeed, and even fail without fear or judgment. Her leadership style involves recognizing that people are an organization’s best asset, and together they can build a world a better place for individuals who really need it the most.

In our interview for the Leadership With Heart podcast, she shared how she works on facilitating human-to-human connection at work to create spaces for colleagues to be vulnerable and drive employee success. Diana was referred to me from a listener who felt very strongly that Diana embodied the principles of leading with heart. I can say that she was right!

Listen to our interview now.

Connect with Diana on social media: LinkedIn 

Kelly Moran

Kelly Moran, Executive Director of the American Cancer Society in Denver. 

She is an experienced professional specializing in volunteer engagement, fundraising, community engagement, and event planning. Kelly shared with me how our attitude matters in the workplace. If we want to instill confidence and help others move forward past adversity, we must do it first.

Leaders are often challenged to learn while they are working. Kelly embraces this and thrives on the energized feeling that manifests when she is aware that she’s learning and growing. For Kelly, if she’s going to fail, she would rather do it quickly and move on to something else if it doesn’t work out. On the subject of failure, she is quick to highlight that one person’s terrible idea often leads to someone else’s good idea. 

As a leader, Kelly shared with me the importance of knowing your attitude and put yourself in other people’s shoes when they are having a stressful day or find themselves under a lot of pressure. Kelly feels compelled to want to shield everyone rather than project when it comes to pressure and stress in a work environment.

Ultimately, Kelly leads by example and proves that you will get kindness back if you put kindness out there in the workplace. During our conversation with Kelly, she spoke to the importance of allowing and empowering everyone around you to bring their best selves to work and how being purposeful in your communication can help create strong connections. Kelly leads with compassion and heart in an organization that fights for those who struggle with cancer and in the middle of pandemic. She exercises the necessary self-leadership to lead with care.Listen to our interview.

Connect with Kelly on social media: LinkedIn 

Kevin Kruse

Kevin Kruse launched his first company when he was just 22 years old. He built and sold several multimillion-dollar technology companies and picked up Inc 500 and Best Place to Work awards along the way. He is also known for his NY Times bestseller, We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, Employee Engagement 2.0. But his achievements only tell half of his story.

Kevin is a massive advocate for experiencing your emotions and investigating them. We all experience fear, anger, anxiety, pride, happiness, guilt, etc., and by recognizing our emotions and identifying their roots, Kevin explains that we can become an even better leader for others. 

By providing an emotional commitment and engaging with employees, Kevin proves that teams transform their performance and put businesses on the right path to success. Kevin currently serves as Founder & CEO of LEADx, an online learning platform that provides free leadership development for millions of people around the world. 

Kevin has not been on my podcast, but he has, two times now, endorsed both of my books though we have never met. He is a selfless person who looks to grow and give to others.

Connect with Kevin on social media: LinkedIn – Website

LaToya Lyn

LaToya Lyn is currently the VP of Talent Strategy at Oscar Health. LaToya has a dual master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior from Brooklyn College. Her professional experience spans from executive coaching to driving organizational changes and culture transformations for technology companies globally. She has also contributed to cognitive neuroscience, including adult learning theories and animal research. 

LaToya believes that it is not what you do as a leader but how you do it. She believes that her biggest gift is the ability to bring people together and bring out their best selves and their fullest potential in an authentic way. But she is also happy to take off her leadership cap and become the student that learns from them too.

LaToya embodies creating space to share with others and bring them along too. In our discussion, she also talked about why leaders must respect their own life and warned that only then can they automatically respect others. Ultimately, it’s about integrity and intention rather than the mistakes we might make along the way. LaToya is a leader to watch in 2021, because of how she breaks down barriers for others to gain access to opportunities. She broken thru a few of her own!

Listen to our interview.

Social: LinkedIn 

Dr. T Renata Robinson

Dr. T. Renata Robinson is a professional of many firsts. She is currently the first Chief Human Resources Officer of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

Dr. Robinson was the first Chief Diversity Officer for the City of Boulder, CO, and Director of Organization Development and Talent Management for Total Long-Term Care Solutions. She has been Vice President of Human Resources for Teach for America Colorado and the Human Resources Manager for Comcast. 

Good, effective leaders understand that they are not always right. Although she is a self-confessed results-driven person, you won’t find Dr. Robinson chasing results at the expense of others. By contrast, her approach builds relationships that support people to get the results. It’s not about you. It’s about perspective and how to shift the narrative. 

During our conversation with Dr. T Renata Robinson, she spoke about her desire to model humility as the highest honor. It’s important to understand that often, we encounter our people in their brokenness, so admitting your own mistakes as a leader shows strength and helps strengthen others. As someone whom I have actively partnered with, I see so many caring leadership behaviors in Renata.

Listen to our interview.

Social: LinkedIn 

Timbra Yoakum

Timbra Yoakum has been in education for 15 years and is currently the Director of Special Programs for a Texas public school district. She has spent the last eight years as an Educational Diagnostician. This year, Timbra modeled how to be a servant leader and get in the trenches with those you lead. She talks about the value of spending one-on-one time and getting to know your people personally.

Timbra never wants to be known as the kind of leader that’s not down on the ground with the troops. As a leader with heart, she invests her time getting to know her employees and making sure they feel comfortable approaching her if they have any problems. She shared how much of a difference a little bit of your time can make when building relationships.

Timbra proudly wears her heart on her sleeve and told me how we just show up as leaders. We do the hard stuff with a good attitude. In our interview with Timbra, she spoke about the importance of knowing her people’s daily lives and how that helps her people feel comfortable in their environment and builds a relationship of trust. I have watched Timbra engage people through her willingness to admit her mistakes while maintaining a solution-focused mindset many times over. She shows us all how imperfect leaders are also brilliant when they learn and course correct.

Listen to our interview.

Matt Manners

At Inspiring Workplaces™, Matt Manners is on a mission to change the world through the world of work. The company believes in recognizing and shaping the new, forward-thinking organizations of the future. Engagement and commitment in their community of inspirers play a critical role in creating a movement focussed on changing the world for the better.

In my discussion with Matt on his Inspire Club Podcast, we talked about helping leaders understand the power they possess to ensure employees feel valued and have experiences in the workplace that inspire them to greatness.

For several year, I have watched Matt has catapulted all things employee engagement to the forefront of our social media universe with the awards that he offers both individuals and organizations. He chooses to see the greatness in those around him and highlight it for the world to see. He is definitely someone to pay close attention to in 2021.

Listen to the Interview

Social: Website  LinkedIn

Leaders who intentionally exercise their power to be more emotionally intelligent in their communications and interactions show much more heart in the process. This display of heart keeps their team members and co-workers bonded to them and drives increased employee engagement and loyalty. These are just a few reasons why all of the leaders in this article embody caring leadership.

As Karen Johnson, equity and inclusion administrator at the Washington Department of Corrections, said during our interview, “If you take care of your staff, if you take care of the people that are entrusted to your care, they will not only take care of the people that they are supposed to take care of, they will also take care of you.”

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