Leadership Lessons I Learned from my Four Children

children kids leadership lessons
Dedicated to my Children

Someone recently approached me and pointed out that the two books I have written have been dedicated to my children, not my spouse, not my mother. For me, this was common sense. My children have taught me more than anyone else has about leadership. They are the foundation of my leadership journey, and they are my daily inspiration. 

Teamwork: A Canoe Lesson

The first example I want to share is one I actually share in Chapter 4 of my book, The Art of Caring Leadership.

My second oldest son is incredibly independent. He is a self-starter and chases down his personal goals with great success. But, he isn’t fond of depending on other people to help him achieve his goals. This individuality became an issue when he went on a canoe trip with my husband. The idea of having to work with someone else, even his father, was enough to make him nervous. He began to be doubtful of their success. 

Through discussing this experience with my son, we both gleaned that while “people do innovate by themselves, but great innovations come from cross-functional collaborations and teamwork” (62). At the same time, it cemented a deeper lesson about teamwork:

You have to put yourself in the shoes of others, and you have to be OK with them not being perfect. You have to move forward when the waves are pulling against you. You have to work with the other person in the canoe (62).

Empowerment: A College Debut

This week is very sentimental for me as I drop my first child and only daughter off at college. As one might do in this situation, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on her preparation. I realized just how much of that preparation I was responsible for. 

It’s hard to watch as I let her go to spread her wings. But it has also taught me a great leadership lesson in empowerment. Every moment of my daughter’s life, whether we realized it or not, my husband and I have been setting her up for life as an adult. We have been empowering her to take the reins when the time comes. Yes, I am emotional that the time has come! But it is an incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I can trust that she will do what’s right for her. And I can’t wait for the next lesson in leadership. The one where I learn from her, as she’s excelling and succeeding in college because of her empowerment. 

Empathy: Being there for my son

Another leadership lesson I learned from one of my sons has to do with leading the whole person. I had to recognize that my son is different from myself and individual in the way he needs to communicate. 

It took time, but I finally realized that to get him to open up to me. First, I had to meet him where he was. Plus, I had to be prepared to empathize and listen and be present. Before, I could not understand what my son was feeling and experiencing without choosing to be present with him and empathize. But then, finally, after he grew comfortable and realized that I was not there to control or force a connection, he opened up to me, and we had a conversation. 

Altered Perspective: Seek Beauty

The final lesson in leadership I want to address today was taught to me by my youngest son. It was a simple and brief moment, but it impacted the way I view the world. 

I’m an incredibly occupied person. I zoom in between family life and many work commitments every day. Constantly going to the next appointment, I tend to focus my gaze and energy directly ahead. 

One day I was driving my youngest son to practice, and he was able to break my focus on my schedule and to-do list and forced me to look up at the sky and observe a rainbow. As I rested my eyes on the spectacle of a natural miracle, I remembered to widen my perspective. When we focus so singularly on what is directly in front of us, we will miss many beautiful moments life offers us. Beauty is an incredible source of creativity. My son helped me be a more well-rounded leader and a more creative one by reminding me to stop and smell the roses that day. 

A Thank You to my Children

These are just four specific moments I am grateful to my children for as they have better formed me as a caring leader. Of course, there are countless other examples. But if these can help even a few people reflect on their leadership behaviors or perhaps help them glean lessons from their children, then again, I owe gratitude to my children.

A Lesson in Legacy for Leaders and Princesses

legacy selfless princess diaries leader

A Princess Diaries Moment

I was recently on a plane and had the opportunity to watch a movie. I chose The Princess Diaries. A classic rom-com, traditional royalty meets the average teenager. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, the main character, Mia Thermopolis, and her best friend, Lilly Moskovitz, are chatting in gym class. legacy

Mia says to Lilly, “What’s so cool about being a princess?” to which Lilly responds, “It’s having the power to affect change. What teenager do you know with the power to do that?”

This little exchange struck me. I thought, “Wow, they are hitting at something profound here.” 

I think, in many ways, being a leader is simply having the power to affect change. Anyone who can influence another human has that kind of power. 

A Reflection on Power

I encourage everyone reading this to take a step back and ponder how you have affected change recently. What changes have you been the catalyst of? Have you played a role in organizational change or changes that only affect you? Have you participated in a change in your family, friends circle, or your personal life? Or have you caused positive change for a peer or a stranger?

All the different ways we can affect change define our legacy. I think of legacy as the trail of positive influence that we leave behind or all the positive changes we bring about that affect those that come after us. 

So I urge you to think about how far your legacy extends. It is far too easy to get caught up in our own lives, needs, wants, goals, and become self-centered. But, the measure of our greatness and success isn’t measured in the changes in our own lives. Alternatively, it’s exactly what Lilly said in The Princess Diaries. It’s how we affect change for others. 

Leaders and their Circle of Influence

Think about examples of great leaders. Abraham Lincoln helped bring about the end of slavery. Harriet Tubman helped others escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Simone Biles took a stance supporting mental health, fighting the stigma that still exists around the topic. 

A huge part of being a Caring Leader is self-leadership. I wrote about that last week, and I write on it often, but the end goal of self-leadership is still oriented outwards. It is caring for yourself to better care for others. Because the end goal of Caring Leadership is affecting positive change for others. 

How Can We Do This?

Today, I challenge you to think outside the box a little more. Include more. Consider going the extra step in helping someone else achieve their goals. Have an intentional conversation with someone you don’t know as well. Do a random act of kindness or two. Be a voice for the voiceless. Try advocating for the less fortunate. These acts, whether big or small, are the stones that build a strong legacy. 

The best Caring Leaders are selfless. So how can you be selfless today?

Simone Biles: An Olympic Champion in Self-Leadership

Simone Biles: Champion or Leader?

If you’ve been following the Olympics at all this past week, then there is no escaping the news surrounding Simone Biles. It all began with a tweet hinting at her struggles with mental health. Simone began the narrative of what would soon become the focus of the world on Sunday, July 25th after the qualifying round, saying:

it wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually♡ they mean the world to me!

Unfortunately, things soon got even tougher for Simone. Not long after, Simone withdrew from team finals, the all around competition and the first three event finals. The cause for her withdrawal? Her wellbeing. Her mental health. 

Simone said on social media, “For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync.” She also said, “Physical health is mental health.”

The Mental Health Epidemic

After the last 18 months, we can all agree that mental health is just as widespread as the pandemic, and arguably a deeper rooted issue. You can read more about the mental health epidemic here

There is no doubt in my mind that Simone Biles is a young woman who has faced adversity in many forms. The first being growing up as an African American woman, and I can relate to the challenges that presents. It’s public knowledge that Simone was also a victim of Larry Nassar, while simultaneously a star on the largest virtual stage at the Olympics.

When she said, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,” not even a part of me doubts it for a second. 

Now although Simone is renowned as a hero, the best female gymnast in history, and the GOAT (greatest of all time), she is first and foremost a human being. 

A Lesson in Self-Leadership

Simone Biles taught the world a lesson in self-leadership at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and I would like to thank her for that. (So Simone, if you ever read this, thank you, lady!)

I define self-leadership in my latest book, The Art of Caring Leadership:

“Self-leadership is of critical importance for the Caring Leader, in that if she doesn’t lead herself first, she cannot properly care for those she leads. She must understand her purpose and why she leads; be self-aware and understand and adapt to the people around her; have control over her mindset; understand the role of influence; consistently grow her skills; have a coach or mentor; and simply take time to care for her mind, body, and spirit” (13).

An Olympic athlete is a leader, and whether they like it or not, the whole world turns to watch them as true icons. Not all leaders bear a title. Not all leaders choose to become leaders. But, most Caring Leaders do start out as someone choosing to invest in their own self-leadership.

A True Leader

Simone Biles demonstrated true self-leadership in her exemplary self-awareness. She demonstrated a depth of understanding that most people are too afraid to delve into when it comes to self-reflection. 

Simone exhibited resolute control over her mindset and extreme care for her teammates. She understood the role of her influence, but did not let the power of influence interfere with her knowledge of what was truly best for her. She took a powerful stance as she stood up for the wellbeing of her mind, body and spirit while bowing out of the competition. A Caring Leader always takes care of herself first. 

Among the most basic needs of a human being, as proven by science, are safety and security. Just look at Maslow’s hierarchy. Simone Biles has proven her prowess as a leader not only in the sport of gymnastics but among the ranks of mankind as she took great care to maintain her own safety and security while under a huge amount of pressure. 

A True Champion

Her decisions to withdraw from Olympic events and prioritize her mental and physical health display that she is just as much a leader off the podium as she is on it. And she is just as much a champion of her sport as she is a champion for mental health. Mental health is a challenge that nearly every human being will face at some point in their life, and that’s infinitely more people than in the world of gymnastics. So thank you again Simone Biles, you are one heck of a Caring Leader and you truly are our champion.

Can They See Us from Up There?

can they see us from up there leadership
A Recurring Issue

In my work, I see time and again the issues that exist at the top of organizations. However, so often, there are a few problems that organizations suffer from that are isolated among top executives. 

The people at the top who don’t have buy-in on new initiatives is one I see a lot. The rest of the organization has the drive to move forward with change, but the aloof C-suite won’t get involved and drive the culture towards change. 

This problem affects so many organizations because that’s how powerful executives are. They are the major change drivers within an organization. So the damage they are capable of inflicting by simply not caring enough about the whole picture, or being out of the loop, or not backing changes, it’s substantial. 

If the entire side of leadership that the executive team shows the rest of the organization is like the one I just mentioned, you can bet that those leaders are doing more harm than good. 

If you or someone you know is an executive leader, then I would like to invite you and them to take the Caring Leadership Assessment to see what actual behaviors you can strengthen or add to be a better leader for your teams. 

Follow the Leader

Executives at the top drives team morale. Take this story, for example, an organization realizes they need to improve work-life balance, so they create policies for employees to take off time more easily and not have to work full days on Fridays. An excellent change, right? Well, the distant leaders somewhere at the top of this organization don’t change their goals accordingly. So, a new policy rolls out, but all anyone hears from the top is the same thirst for business. The expected levels of productivity, fast turnarounds, and demanding client service remain the same. The pressure from executives has now stopped nearly all employees from benefiting from the new work-life balance measures. 

Instead, the same unhealthy toxic environment of go, go, go remains. The feeling that it’s never enough is continued and takes over the team culture. Teams affected by such leadership do not feel empowered. Instead, they are stuck in the grind, as if their leaders have nearly tied their hands behind their backs, then offered them the work-life balance plan of their dreams, but made it impossible to choose it and experience it. 

The Concern

Let’s look at it from this perspective: the executive leaders got that far in the organization because they put in the hard work and long hours to make it. They have the business needs of the whole organization as their number one priority and have figured out how to make money, drive new business, grow, etc. 

But, the needs of the business cannot come at the expense of the employees’ wellbeing. And success for the company does not mean success for each employee. On the contrary, success for employees means they feel like they can be their authentic selves at work. That could mean having an active family life or simply showing up as themselves independent of their leader. 

Success Looks Different for Employees

Success for employees looks like a healthy work-life balance. Employees are content when they know the work they do is meaningful, and they are cared for in the process by those who lead them. So let’s rid our workplaces of the start-and-stop of new initiatives that have no real C-suite support. Instead, executives should focus on real congruence with organizational values and norms that promote emotional wellbeing for all.

Again, I invite you to take the Caring Leadership Assessment to figure out where your next steps forward are in your journey. The development of one leader can change an entire company and have a positive ripple effect overall. Leadership is powerful and executives has the means to implement change. Let’s be caring about it.

Do you Need a Leader or a Superhero?

leader superman hero
Leader or Organizational Glue?

How often as a leader do you feel like it is your responsibility to hold your whole organization together? Do you strive to keep it together through thick and thin so that no one will see anything other than a fearless leader? You are not alone if those questions hit home. 

When leaders put on the persona of a superhero with their imaginary capes serving as impermeable shells, they really don’t exhibit the unifying forces that a leader needs. This facade of strength and power distances a leader from their employees more than it brings them together as a team. 

Leaders who are too concerned with maintaining their reputation and holding it together miss out on important details, relationships, and development opportunities. Think of it this way: if you were actually a superhero flying above your organization, you might have an apparent view of what’s often referred to as the 30,000-foot view, but you won’t really be down there in the midst of it with your employees. 

All about Balance

Good leadership is all about balance. It’s about knowing when to observe from above and when to get your hands dirty with your team. It’s about knowing when to appear strong and courageous and knowing when to let your walls down so your team can get to know the real vulnerable side of you. 

The Center for Creative Leadership came out with a list of 10 qualities that good leaders embody:

  • Integrity
  • Ability to delegate
  • Communication
  • Self-awareness
  • Gratitude
  • Learning agility
  • Influence
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Respect

These are not in any specific order, but the second one immediately jumped out at me. I’ve seen this in myself, and I’ve seen this in leaders I’ve worked under. Leaders who rely on their strong outer shell and persona can get so caught up in their own world—their often lonely world—because they don’t let anyone in. Then, when a challenging workload or a problem bigger than even their superhero-sized ego rolls around, they struggle to see when they need real assistance and help. 

Vulnerability is Key

Leaders, be vulnerable. We can go to the movies to catch an extraordinary display of strength and power. But in our workplaces and our homes, we need examples of real people. We want to see the humanity of our real-life heroes and leaders. We want to understand that they have flaws alongside their gifts, that they can ask for help. Great leaders recognize their limitations. They choose to delegate their work to find that balance and free up some time to catch a glimpse from 30,000 ft. 

Being a leader is difficult. I don’t think anyone would challenge that. But I assure you, opening up and showing up to work every day without a cape or a mask, as the real you, is infinitely more powerful than being a superhero. 

For more information, listen to my podcast with Cori Burbach, “Leaders with Heart Understand that Leadership is about Courage and Vulnerability”.

Bezos v. Jassy Meets Caring Leadership

amazon jeff bezos leaders leadership
Amazon, the customer, then the Employee-Is it Worth it?

Jeff Bezos, the business tycoon and founder of Amazon, stepped down as CEO on July 5. The reins are now in the hands of Andy Jassy. I recently was a guest on the Bloomberg Business podcast and had the pleasure of discussing my advice to Andy Jassy. My portion of the interview begins at 00:20:40. 

I’m sure many of us have heard whispers about the company culture of Amazon, one of the world’s largest tech companies. In all the research I did for this post, the number one thing I found on Amazon’s company culture is that it is customer-centric. Always and first and foremost, the customer. Contrarily, here at Employee Fanatix, we work hard to meet the needs of each employee to meet the needs of the customer better. 

How can my idea of Caring Leadership, which has become a little online ecosystem, which you can find here, fit into the corporate beast of a company like Amazon?

Most Recent Updates

recently read that before Jassy became CEO, Amazon updated its leadership principles to be more employee well-being and empathy-centric. While this sounds like a massive step in the right direction, it makes me a little nervous. How often do companies swimming in wealth hand out great compensation and benefits hoping to atone for the harsh working reality?

In the Bloomberg Businessweek podcast, I discussed how Bezos was often aloof and advised Jassy to listen more. I also saw that Jassy is known to be more personable (see here). 

Additionally, rather than throwing the dog a bone and extending benefits packages or increasing wages, I hope that Amazon digs into the core of the issue. I hope that Andy Jassy will seek out first-hand stories of the company he now stands at the helm of. Figure out what it is that really makes the ship rock. Long hours? Harsh working conditions? Obsessiveness with speed? Besides, a generous 401k and a pat on the back won’t fix these issues. 

I argue that shifting this focus to your employees and their needs does not contradict your customer-centric leadership approach. In fact, if your employees feel heard and see that you are caring for their actual needs, they will feel valued and live out the mission of their work even more. 

The Solution

After listening to the very real concerns and complaints of the Amazon employees, it might be daunting to consider the changes that can no longer be avoided. Instead, Jassy should gather his leaders and discuss the best solution for their employees. Ultimately, they might even have to even consider altering their 14 company leadership principles

I firmly maintain that you can put both customers and employees first within an organization. It’s simple-just care for people, on both ends, wherever they are. Definitely listen on both ends. Grow and maintain a culture that sustains the level of work output and the employees’ wellbeing. 

If you’ve heard an Amazon warehouse horror story or any tale of the workers feeling burnt out, then you are not alone. Leaders can’t problem-solve this one on their own. There is a huge need for inclusiveness, and I’m not talking just about marginalized groups. I’m talking about the frontline workers, the ones who are in the midst of the issues. 

I think that this multi-level inclusion actually fits perfectly with the following of Amazon’s leadership principles: 

Learn and Be Curious; Nobody in life ever finishes learning, and this includes leaders at Amazon. People in charge at Amazon should always be looking for how to know better and be better. Leaders are always seeking options as well as looking for ways to explore them.

What Amazon Can Do

What better way to “know better and be better” than by using the voices of the people who work with you? This allows you to find perfectly tailored solutions to their needs. This work doesn’t have to be internal, added to the plates of people already experiencing burnout. There are people out there like my team, who come in to handle this challenging change process for you and your organization.

Leaders, if you’ve ever had your organization compared to Amazon, are worried about a bad reputation for employee wellbeing, or have experienced firsthand the trials that your team has to work through, then start here. Above all, start with listening.

On the Basis of Politics

politics monica thornton heather younger
The Loophole

In 2018, the movie “On the Basis of Sex” was released. In following the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it reveals how one woman and her husband derailed sex-based discrimination within our country’s legal and political system. It all started with one case, a loophole if you will. Ruth and her husband take a case about sex-based discrimination against a man to eventually cause hundreds of sexist laws against women to be changed. 

While the vast majority of the sexist plight subjugates women to injustices, this story reveals the beauty of equality as a fight for a man’s justice brings about greater equality for women. 

Revived Social Justice

Flash forward to 2021 – a year ago, our country was on fire both figuratively and literally as a new social justice movement was born out of horrible crime. As a country, we are pushing with full force forward as the progressive future becomes a reality day by day. Stories of atrocities have lit up the racism in our societies, allowing people who were previously oblivious to find it difficult not to see the light. 

Our country, and more importantly, its people, have lots of healing and work to do to eradicate race-based discrimination from our Nation. Unlike in the movie “On the Basis of Sex,” the call for equality for all, regardless of race, rings loudly from the vast majority of people. 

On the Basis of Politics

Soon after the tragic death of George Floyd, there was an election. Maybe most of you, like myself, have tried to forget the turmoil and drama of those tense months. Our country has two primary political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. While one of these parties covers more of the progressive social change that our Nation is charging towards, the other is often perceived as hate- filled. 

Here at Employee Fanatix, we echo a call for equality, justice, authenticity, inclusion, and belonging for all. For all. In other words, we obviously do not stand for sex-based discrimination or race-based discrimination. We do not support any discrimination, not even political-based discrimination. 

I have heard small voices in safe corners speak out about the discrimination that Republicans have felt in their workplaces. Right-leaning citizens of our country and employees in your workplaces are often fear-filled and silent, or outright judged and “put on blast” for their beliefs. “It was not a safe space for Republicans in 2016”. A statement I heard on a Listening Session that still rings in my ears. This isn’t just a new phenomenon. This is deep-rooted divisiveness. And if I am going to proudly work to build unity in our workplaces, then I am going to stand behind this cause as well. 

Another Loophole

Why am I speaking about this all now, during the calm after the storm of the election? A few weeks ago, I was on a call, and I witnessed a microaggression on the basis of politics. Someone was describing the most racist city they had ever experienced. They said it was filled with segregation, ripe with discrimination, and that people were even flying the Confederate flag. This incomplete statement reveals a sad truth about the reality of racism in our country. That portion of the statement is entirely deplorable, but it’s what came next that shocked me.

That city is filled with segregation, ripe with discrimination, people are even flying the Confederate flag, and some people are still flying their Trump flags.  

The undertone: If you align with the Republican party, then you are implicitly racist. 

Now, if we want everyone to be able to voice their opinion without experiencing judgment or, worse, hatred, then that means Republicans and Democrats alike. If we proudly speak out for social change on dozens of social inequalities, we should let go of our smaller, quieter biases that come out roaring during election years. Because  Republican and racist aren’t synonymous. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinions and thankfully we have the right to speak freely in our country. However, when those opinions are actually assuming moral judgments about a person’s character, well, that’s just an offense. It’s a stereotype, and we are working so hard to eliminate microaggressions tied to stereotypes. 

Respect Every Voice

There are bad people on both sides of the political spectrum, among all the sexes, and in every racial group. There are bad people everywhere, but there are also good people everywhere. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are out to tear down Americans. People choose their political party based on their belief system. Polarized opinions on big or small issues do not determine who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are. It’s our daily actions, our words, our respect for our neighbors, our ability to be caring, regardless of a person’s identity. 

How incredible is it that we live in a society that raises the voices of minorities and seeks social justice? Well, that action doesn’t actually bring about inclusion or unity if it exclusively only welcomes the Left. What about when there’s a microaggression against what’s referred to as the “majority”? That “majority” that feels silenced, afraid and un-welcomed? We have ourselves another loophole. A loophole brought down sexism in the legal framework of our country. Let’s not overlook these loopholes. Equality depends on it. 

I invite you all to join me as I work with Employee Fanatix to eradicate discriminatory behaviors from our workplaces and our world. There is no more space for divisiveness. Let’s focus on this now in the calm after the storm so that the next time a storm blows through, the damage done won’t be as great.  

Authenticity, but Only if You’re Kind

authenticity workplace kind
Authenticity: Yay or Nay?

Do you ever encourage authenticity in the workplace but wonder if maybe it’s too much? By this, I mean, have you encountered people in your lives who are authentically just not the best? Another term for the people I’m thinking of is “jerks”. How do you reconcile authentic behavior at work with people who are authentically inconsiderate, unkind, and perhaps obnoxious too?

Merriam Webster defines authentic as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” In this day and age, we are constantly calling for authenticity. Telling people to speak their truth, erecting safe spaces everywhere we can, and lifting the voices of people who have suffered throughout history. When we call for authenticity, our intentions are usually good, but this term and call to action can be overused. 

What do I mean by this? Think of it as the expression, “You do you,” at the core of this comment is separation. One person essentially is saying to another, ‘I disagree with part of this, but don’t care enough to say otherwise.’ It’s an interaction where two people do the best they can for themselves. 

True Authenticity

When we call for authenticity, it needs to help unite our employees. It should create more inclusion and less division. Ensure that your employees’ authentic selves are helping bring people closer together and not pushing others away. I’m sure we have all experienced people who come off as narcissistic and disrespectful. These types of people often don’t really care about other people’s needs or feelings. These authentic behaviors definitely do not bring people closer together. So, how can we work to exclude this sort of authenticity from our workplaces?

A Lesson in Authenticity

First of all, check yourself as you work to be authentic. Ask yourself, is your focus on yourself or on other people? Your focus needs to be directed outwards towards other people to accomplish the true purpose of authentic behavior. If you are only focusing on behaviors that feel self-fulfilling, you will more often than not exclude those around you without even realizing it. 

This leads me to my second point. Proper authentic behavior manifests itself in vulnerability—the good kind of vulnerability. To be truly vulnerable with your employees, you cannot have boundaries that exclude them from getting to know the real you. Again, it’s key that you are focusing outwards. If your attention is directed towards yourself, the people around you will sense this as a barrier to getting to know the real you. 

Some people shy away from being vulnerable at work, thinking that vulnerability requires sharing intimate details about one’s life. However, as Kristen Benefiel shares with me in an episode of The Leadership with Heart podcast, it is entirely possible to be vulnerable and yet listen more than you speak.  

Understand Your Own Value System

I devote an entire chapter of my most recent book, The Art of Caring Leadershipto the challenge of being authentic. The act of authenticity ties into knowing yourself so well that you can manage your behaviors and actions towards others. In particular, to inspire those around you in their own endeavors. A huge part of the journey towards authenticity is understanding your own value system. What are your motivators, what do you hope to be remembered for?

I promise you that if you put time and care into each step that I mentioned above, your authenticity will be perceived as the compassionate action it is. In addition, you will be authentic in an outward-focused way that helps you present yourself in a welcoming and inclusive manner to those around you.  

Let’s weed out the authenticity evoked by expressions like YOLO and “you do you”. Being authentic is a glorious unique trait, but it does not come without careful effort. Leaders, be the example for your teams. Make it so that any “authentic jerks” will see the beauty in the selfless act of real authenticity. The kind of authenticity that brings people together. 

The Art of Caring Leadership

The last 12 months have felt incredibly turbulent with COVID-19 and an increasing polarization in society dominating the news. For these reasons alone, I feel that the need for caring leadership has never been more important than it is right now. It is often said that we should be the change that we want to see in the world, so I set out to learn more from those who have mastered the art of caring leadership.

We have all been that person who has worked for someone who genuinely embraced us with their care. By contrast, we’ve all worked with someone who did the exact opposite and left us feeling not heard, not important, and not cared for at all. We are all searching for a sense of belonging and feel that our voice is valued. But what does caring leadership look like? And how does it uplift both teams and organizations?

I have shared my personal story in my Ted Talk about how not feeling heard or important inspired me to transform adversity into an opportunity. My mission has always been to ensure others always feel listened to and that their voice matters. One of the biggest drivers in my management career has always been the desire to listen more effectively. 

In my Leadership With Heart podcast, I have been fortunate to speak with and listen to over 150 inspiring leaders who have shared profound and actionable insights on how to be a caring leader. Each leader had a unique leadership story. They were also brave enough to share a moment when they were not the best version of themselves.

Howard Behar, former president of the Starbucks Coffee Company; Judith Scimone, senior vice president and chief talent officer at MetLife; and Garry Ridge, CEO and chairman of the board of the WD-40 Company are just a few examples of people who have shared with me how they have learned the art of caring leadership.

Throughout my career, I have read through thousands of employee survey comments from people who felt their voice was not being heard. When I listen to what the leaders are saying and the actions they take, I automatically find myself sniff testing if it is reconciling against what employees wished for or the things, they did not have in those survey comments. 

Ultimately, I have learned that if your people know you care about them, they will move mountains. Every leader I have interviewed expressed caring in their own unique, personal way. The powerful and profound insights gained from listening to both employees and leaders inspired me to write my second book, In The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading With Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. 

I took lessons learned from 80 of my best interviews, along with thousands of those employee comments I have seen over the years. Together they have helped me build a framework that gives people actionable steps to show that they care. 

However, I didn’t just focus on Fortune 100 leaders or big names in the industry. I also shine the spotlight on everyday caring leaders and showcase what they do every single day to uplift and change the lives of those they lead. We are surrounded by caring leaders committed to seeing people succeed, not just for what they can do for the team or organization.  

I have witnessed first-hand how employees will go the extra mile for leaders who show they are genuinely concerned with what employees can do and who they are and can become. If this book makes it into the hands of people who don’t express or exhibit care and lead their people, I believe we can make a real impact in the workplace and the world.

I invite you all to join me on this journey of continuous learning, and together we can all master the art of caring leadership. You can find out more details and pre-order my new book here.

Why You Are Who You Say You Are

I have the privilege of speaking and working closely with organizations every day. From those conversations, I have learned that any solopreneur, entrepreneur, or successful leader can suffer a crisis of confidence when they least expect it.

You are not alone if you have ever experienced moments where you feel hopeless, questioned if you are too young to be in a role, or felt that you are simply not good enough. It can also manifest itself in a dreaded case of imposter syndrome. However, many of these feelings are often caused by how we think people perceive us, rather than who we actually are.

As humans, we often define ourselves by a series of labels that we think represent who we are and how we want to be seen by the rest of the world. Although these labels can help us achieve our goals, we often forget that we are much more than the perception of others. Ultimately, your truth is who you say you are. 

When you believe, feel, and say you are that thing, something magical starts to happen. Your inner voice and curiosity become your compass. You can envision yourself in a specific place and begin to naturally move in a direction that will guide you to find your place in the world.

I began my career as a lawyer, but it was only when I was brave enough to be honest with myself, that I learned it was not my truth. I am and have always been a people person that cares for others. I pivoted, and my journey took me into the customer and account management sales space. I loved the experience and enjoyed helping customers. Once again, I quickly realized that this was only a part of my journey, rather than the final destination.

My true calling in life was to be a leader with heart in the employee and leadership space. I didn’t need an advanced degree to lead with empathy and compassion, it’s who I am, and I was called to do this, so I continued to follow my path. My leadership journey was successful because I dared to embrace that I am who I say I am, and that is the same for everyone else too.

Along your journey, you will encounter those who will try to put a label on you or convince you that their perception of you is different from who you are. The reality is that only you can determine your identity and use it as a guide to take you to where you need to go. When you accept that you are who you say you are, you can walk in that direction confidently with your head held high.

I encourage you to follow your inner compass on your leadership development journey. Let the lessons you learn about yourself along the way guide you to where you need to be in this life. Most importantly, remember you are who you say you are and not how others perceive you.