Managers vs. Leaders: What’s the Difference?

leader alone chess

Perhaps you bear the title of “manager” and with it a load of responsibilities, I’m sure. Maybe you manage a product, systems, and processes or a team of people. Your days might consist of making one business decision after the next as you try to guide your company towards success. 

Merriam Webster defines a manager as “one that manages such as: a person whose work or profession is management.” I find this definition funny and redundant. Okay, we need to know a little more to understand. So I looked up: Management, “the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business).” Hm, vague. 

In other words, I think it’s easier to think about this umbrella term in the form of real-life examples. How many of us have had a crummy manager? Or just witnessed a manager doing a poor job in their role? Have you ever had a positive experience with a manager? Perhaps a supervisor helped mold you into a better person by their example. Or your manager gave you grace when you least expected it. 

Managers vs. Leaders

There is a stark difference between managers and leaders. Think of this difference as a line—on one side, the leaders, those who uplift and inspire people, and on the other side, managers. Now, many managers cross that line and are true leaders, and many leaders are not managers. So the line is quite blurry in reality. But for me, leaders are not those with leadership titles. They are the people in any walk of life who inherently seek the good of others. Managers can be good or bad, but someone is a leader only if they try to better the people they serve. 

In my book, I write: “No matter our title, leadership to me is a verb and requires an intention to help someone’s life be better and the commitment to act for the benefit of others” (The Art of Caring Leadership 1).

So you think you’re a leader? Maybe you consider yourself a leader because you have a leadership title. But I would encourage you to think deeply about what it means to serve people from a position of leadership. Leadership is a relationship founded on sacrifice. Management is a relationship founded on power.

I like to focus on a deeper sphere within leadership, or Caring Leadership which is “ taking daily actions in ways that show concern and kindness to those we lead” (The Art of Caring Leadership 1).

Manager then Leader, What’s Next?

Furthermore, if you desire to up your leadership game and be a full-fledged Caring Leader, I have a few recommendations. 

  1. Increase your inclusivity—surround yourself with all the people. You don’t want to be trusted just by certain demographics or only by the highest performers. You should invite everyone into your circle and show you value all. 

I write about this in a section of my book entitled, “Expand Your Invitation to Speak”:

Have you invited the appropriate people to the conversation? Are you inclusive of all perspectives? Who is seated at the table? Who is not in the room that perhaps should be? When you are thinking about creating psychological safety for your employees, you have to ask yourself, “How much more inclusive can I be?” (108).

A person’s voice is their most powerful tool. If our voices are silenced, ignored, or regarded as noise, then we feel debased and devalued as human beings. That is Freedom of Speech. Above all, leaders must amplify others’ voices. 

  1. Be of service to others. If a Caring Leader uplifts others, and the act of uplifting requires support, then try to be a reliable pillar of strength and support for those around you. 

 This reminds me of my interview with Daniel McCollum, which I highlight in my book: 

I want to be a servant-oriented leader. When I really dug deep into this idea of loving and serving, it’s coming every day and . . . trying to figure out how do I serve the people that report to me so that they can be successful? How do I enable them to be successful? How do I help them grow? . . . How do I correct along the way? —Daniel McCollum, founder and CEO, Torrent Consulting (14).

  1. Caring Leadership requires the act of inspiring others. Noticing someone’s gifts and talents is the first step in this process, but knowing how to motivate someone to act is an entirely different story. 

Howard Behar illustrates this in a personal story about his relationship with his wife, which you can listen to in this podcast episode or read in The Art of Caring Leadership. He reflects on the lesson learned saying:

“One of my mission statements for myself goes like this: ‘Every day, I want to nurture and inspire the human spirit. Beginning with myself first and then for others. I say ‘self’ first, because what I’ve learned after living this long is if I’m not okay with Howard, then I can’t help anybody else” (17).

A Total Reward Challenge

Include. Serve. Inspire. 

In conclusion, you will find that being a Caring Leader is a total reward challenge. Sure we will fail time and again; that’s the human in us. I invite you to put people first – Join the Caring Leadership Community

Remote Work Culture: A Stronger Connection than Your Wifi

woman with a dog at home remote work
No Such Thing as a Normal Zoom Call

Almost every Zoom call I’ve been on this year has been quietly interrupted by my dog. The door in my basement office opens slowly and no one visibly comes through it, but down there under the desk Alex snuggles up around my ankles. And on many of these calls I’ve introduced her to whomever is on the other end of the screen. 

How many of us have had similar experiences to this? Kids, spouses, pets, parents and grandparents have made appearances in what used to be our mostly cloistered work lives. I’ve laughed at tale after tale of awkward moments created by the weird world where we’ve been working where we live. 

An employee here at Employee Fanatix recently spent time working from her family’s home watching her younger siblings. A regular Zoom meeting that week actually established a deeper connection between my two employees on the call, as they bonded over similar family lives and the joy and distraction caused by momentarily working in a home around children. 

For many people, it is not a momentary occurrence. With limited travel and the closure of so many office spaces, many Americans have greeted their homes as their offices everyday for over a year. So many of us haven’t ventured from our towns for months on end. Research shows that “More than a third of U.S. households reported working from home more frequently than before the pandemic” (The United States Census Bureau).

Whether you have had an awkward Zoom encounter, or just an out of place one, as it stands, our lives and our work have been stirred up together. Those who work with us on a regular basis have probably grown to know us on a much deeper level. How many of your coworkers are more familiar with the real “you” after the past 14 months? 

The Uncomfortable Truth

My point is, the more you get to know the whole person, in any relationship, the better the relationship will be. 

I devote an entire chapter in my latest book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. How does one go about leading the whole person? Well, I can confidently say we’ve come a lot farther in the past year than maybe ever before. 

The act of getting to know someone, like really getting to know them, can be uncomfortable for many people. These awkward situations and unfortunate circumstances that have drawn our workplaces apart, have in many ways thrown them closer together. 

Now you might know about each of your coworkers’ children, and you’ve maybe even met them through a computer screen. Or, perhaps, you learned of another coworkers’ hardship within the home. Many people experienced illness and death mere feet from their latest ‘office’. Knowing these details about a person’s life is not a lighthearted matter. Your empathy muscle should be twitching and yes, it might be uncomfortable. But we can now be there for our team member’s and colleagues in a way we never really were before. 

You Know More Than You Think

Leading the whole person means showing true acceptance of team members by intentionally expressing empathy, compassion and understanding. 

Whether you wanted this deeper glimpse into your team members’ lives or not, please rise to the occasion and be a Caring Leader (even if you aren’t leadership). Incorporate your new perspective of your team into the way you treat them. I guarantee this has already happened naturally, or been brought about by the adjustments to work from home culture. 

If you reached out to your team about the world behind their computer screens when they were miles away from you, then be sure to continue that behavior when you meet in person. People’s lives and their many complications aren’t going anywhere. But, as they seem to drift further into the background while in-person work slowly ramps up, don’t forget about those connections forged across wifi networks and cell towers during that crazy Covid year. 

Have personal one-on-one conversations. Acknowledge the stronger more weathered bonds you have with your team when you meet in a new environment. Check in on their families, their personal lives, heck even their pets! Your team members will thank you and your jobs will be fruitful. People who feel cared for will in turn take care of the work they were hired to do.

What Triggers You?


Have you ever been asked what are your biggest pet peeves? One of my employees was just asked this recently, and mentioned that it’s a question posed to her quite often. Pet peeve is just a more common and light-hearted term for something we all experience, triggers.

On our HR Community Hour last week, we discussed triggers and how to address them. One recommendation I always stress is spending time to diagnose and recognize your own emotional triggers, to learn them and in turn minimize the effects they can have on your wellbeing. 

Just like being asked about your pet peeves, start to consider how you would respond when asked about what gets you ticking. If we can be aware of our trigger points, we will be able to begin dissociating ourselves with them and stay focused instead of losing our cool. Some of the triggers we discussed on the following:

A Glimpse of Some of Our Triggers

Diversity and Inclusion

If you haven’t sensed an increased focus on the DEI front across our nation’s workplaces then you’re among the few that have not. This article published by SHRM on August 3, 2020 states that change is coming, One-third of those surveyed have hosted or plan to host an employee meeting—such as a town hall—to discuss the stance and actions they plan to take against racial injustice, SHRM found”. 

The article continues: 

One-fourth of organizations surveyed are creating new policies and systems to reduce systemic and structural bias, and nearly one-third have modified, expanded or plan to change their existing policies and systems. There also is a new emphasis on training about implicit bias, with more than half of organizations teaching their employees about racial inclusion and other diversity-related topics.

So what about the progression of a necessary workplace and cultural movement triggers people?

Unsurprisingly, it’s the fakeness behind it. The facade of putting on a good show and doing little real work. In some cases this trigger is catalyzed by the harsh reality of the timely struggle it takes to bring about real change. 

Gender Stereotypes

During our call we talked a lot about industries that associate certain adjectives with masculinity and others with femininity. For example, words that were used to describe women were “caring, nice, etc”, while men were “confident, powerful, etc”. Anyone, regardless of gender, can be caring, kind, confident and powerful. The belief that otherwise is true is based upon years and years of conditioning, that we should work to reverse. 

Tips for How to Avoid Triggered Reactions
  • Don’t bite the bait, after all it’s a hook. 
  • Practice behaving with a high level of emotional intelligence
    • Let people know how their words made you feel and allow them permission to clarify what they meant. 
  • Visualize your ego as a physical object and place it elsewhere.
    •  This will allow you time to process, reframe, and then react. 

 Just like being asked about your pet peeves, start to consider how you would respond when asked about what gets you ticking. If we can be aware of our trigger points, we will be able to begin dissociating ourselves with them, and stay focused instead of losing our cool. 

If you would like to discuss triggers in your life and come up with an action plan for the next time we face them, please reach out to me.

Caring Leadership Includes Everyone

caring leader woman

I often hear people say, “Oh, I am not a leader yet.” Then, I promptly stop them in their tracks to let them know that everyone leads someone, whether with or without a manager title.  Leading has a lot less to do with a title and more to do with the impact we have on those in our presence. When I wrote my book, The Art of Caring Leadership, it was meant for anyone who considers themselves a leader, not just those who hold the title. For me, Caring Leadership Includes Everyone!

Our Caring Leadership Ecosystem

My team and I just launched a movement that is bigger than a book, a website, a forum, and an assessment. Words that have circled around to define it are: ecosystem, universe, world. And while I love what my brain child turned out to be—an ecosystem of Caring Leadership—this ecosystem is not mutually exclusive. It does not exist apart from our world. It is in the world, because it is in each and every one of you. Yes, that’s right! Even if you don’t have a title, even if you don’t have a job, you are called to be a Caring Leader, and I created an ecosystem to support you through this lifelong mission. 

Everyone that walks this planet influences those around them. Leadership really is influence. Therefore, we are all called to lead, some in big ways and some in very small ways. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, you are still welcome to join me and other Caring-Leaders-In-Development on this journey to express care more often.

We all walk through our lives interacting with people day in and day out. We lead in our homes, communities, places of worship, etc. Do our interactions reflect the nine Caring Leadership Behaviors? When we walk away from someone, do we leave them feeling uplifted and encouraged? Do we show compassion towards others? 

Everyone has to lead themselves first, before having greater influence. Which brings me to the first step in any Caring Leadership journey, even one that doesn’t begin with a title. 


Essentially every person has to lead themself through life. We are taught to learn who we are, understand how we function. We try to grow in tune with our emotions and learn how to react to our passions. We are taught to meet our needs first—self-sufficiency, surviving on an airplane when the oxygen masks drop, filling our cups before we can fill others. 

You may have heard the expression “Treat yourself,” it’s an all too popular trend. And while like most trends, it can be exaggerated, at the core of this expression there is a truth– take care of and be kind to yourself before you can expect to do the same of another.

Belonging (at Work)

Caring Leadership behaviors extend beyond the workplace. You should make your employees feel like they belong at work, but you should strive to make anyone you interact with feel as though they belong too. In safe and common situations, try to connect beyond the surface, especially if it is with someone you come into contact with frequently.  Seek to leave everyone you encounter better than how you met them. 

Whole Person Leadership

Whole Person Leadership Is taking into consideration the mind, body, spirit, emotions and identities of every person inside and outside of work. Everyone desires to be accepted. It’s one of our first instincts as human beings, we don’t want to be caste aside or ignored. So let’s make sure we extend a welcoming invitation to everyone we encounter, letting them know they can be comfortable being their full-selves. Because regardless of our opinions or differing views and beliefs, everyone deserves compassion as their truest selves.  

The other six Caring Leadership behaviors extend to life outside the workplace as well. If you are interested in learning more and still hesitant about beginning this journey, remember, it’s not the title you hold that determines whether you should be on this journey. Join our open and caring community of leaders in development at

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 three Caring Leader behaviors as seen 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. 

A Deeper Look at Three Caring Leadership Behaviors:

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, Making 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 other parts of your organization—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 them. 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 6 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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