The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

227: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Heart-Centered Leader

February 27, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
227: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Heart-Centered Leader
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

I often talk about heart-centered leaders and professionals. After all, you care deeply about the people you work with and who you help every day. While many of you can’t ignore and shouldn’t ignore your big hearts, I want to tell you that your big-hearted nature may be helping or hindering your career and its advancement. 

You'll hear my personal stories about where being a heart-centered leader has helped me and how its perception held me back from advancing within certain organizations. 

That’s why, in this episode, I’m sharing some advantages and disadvantages of heart-centered leadership so you can find greater balance in your work and life as you build Your Mid-Career GPS to figure out whatever is next for you and your career.  

Support the show

Thank you for listening to The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.
Please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts here.

Visit https://johnneral.com to join The Mid-Career GPS Newsletter, a free, twice-weekly career and leadership resource for mid-career professionals.

Connect with John on LinkedIn here.
Follow John on Instagram @johnneralcoaching.
Subscribe to John's YouTube Channel here.

John Neral:

And while it's great to be recognized as this heart-centered leader, that people want to be on your team. They want to work on your project, they want to attend the events that you're sponsoring and hosting, there are some disadvantages and challenges to heart-centered leadership, and the first thing I want to share with you is that there will be people who will perceive your leadership style and your personality as being soft or weak. Now I will offer you that those are perceptions and they are somebody else's thoughts, because that's just uncomfortable for them. They can't see spending all this time with people because they've got a job to do and they need to move it along. It's foreign to them and so oftentimes, with people above you that have disagreements or philosophical differences in terms of how you lead, they may think as if you're wasting time. Okay, I remember being in a role actually in several different roles where I had been the one that needed to terminate somebody, and my approach to that was even though this is going to be uncomfortable and this is not going to be a happy time for anybody, if the roles were reversed, I would want to be treated in the same way I'm going to treat this person who's going to be terminated. So that meant all the conversations leading up to it, the performance improvement plan meetings, the weekly check-ins, the support, the frank and candid conversations that needed to happen. But that was my heart-centered leadership. And I know there were people across a variety of organizations who were like John, you need to move this along. And I go, wait a minute, I'm keeping us out of trouble here. We're going to do this the right way. We're going to do this my way, we're going to stay compliant, but we're going to do this in the best humanly heart-centered way possible. And so for me in my career, while my heart-centered leadership was at times perceived as a weakness, I will tell you that that misconception did not mean I was less decisive or less assertive because of it. I knew my steps and my actions.

John Neral:

I remember in one educational role I had a well, let's just say conflict with somebody who called up and attacked verbally, said some really disparaging things about someone in my department, and I got very defensive and I remember getting angry and raising my voice and this person said well, I'm going to get the principal of the building involved. I said I'll do you one better, let's get the superintendent involved. And so later on that day my principal came to me and he was telling me about this conversation. He was very proud of himself because he smoothed everything over and he got some resolution and everything. And part of it was he was going to come talk to me. And so he comes, talks to me and he says John, I had a conversation with so-and-so and they described it as the two of you having a pissing match. And I kid you, not the first thing I looked at him and said just so, we're clear, my bladder is still full. He looks at me and he goes OK, I can see that you're upset. I'm going to need you to take a breath and to calm down. And he said we're at the end of the day, you just need to go home. You need to go home, convey the mar with a better attitude, but you're upset. See, when heart-centered leaders are upset, that's uncharacteristic, that's different. He knew I was shook, I was mad, and so part of that was he's like OK, look, this is when you have a heart-centered leader managing a heart-centered leader. He's like OK, what do I need to do for you? You need to take the rest of the day off. And I came in the next day. We had a debrief. Everything got worked out, worked over, always good.

John Neral:

But that's the thing. Sometimes people look at heart-centered leaders and they don't think they're capable of being angry. I've shared previously on the pod where I spent 10 years as a local union leader, both in a vice president and co-president role. I will share with you that there were two times. Two times my co-president went to the superintendent of the district and said these three words John is mad. And I was in their office within a half an hour and I remember one of the leaders looked at me and said to me I don't like it when you're mad. The world is not a nice place when you're mad.

John Neral:

So heart-centered leaders can be angry, you can be upset, you can be frustrated, but you will still operate within the boundaries and the limitations and, most importantly, in alignment with your core values. But this is a branding issue as well. If your professional brand is that you are too nice, you are too soft, you are too weak, right, don't let that be the way you are only allowed to operate. You are allowed to say I am angry, I am disappointed, I am frustrated, I am disappointed in you for not recognizing my talents and promoting me to this next level, as a heart-centered leader. When you say that to somebody, they're going to go ouch. You can still have a big heart and express your disappointment and your frustration.

John Neral:

So to help you balance out your heart-centered leadership and leverage it in greater ways possible, I want to offer these three key strategies for success. Number one lead by example. Your big heart and your heart-centered leadership are craved by so many people within your organization. Notice the importance of the values you demonstrate every single day and the ones you will advocate for right. Leading by example influences corporate culture positively, and that's the second strategy I want to offer you here. You get to build a supportive corporate culture wherever you work, and if you work in a quote-unquote, toxic environment, you have the power and the ability to carve out a circle within that organization, which is the circle you lead and you run, and you want to hear people say I want to work for John, I want to work for so-and-so, and people are saying your name in positive ways, that they want to be led by you, managed by you, learned from you, you are building that supportive corporate culture that is grounded in your heart-centered leadership.

John Neral:

So, even if you don't work in the most heart-centered kind of organization. Remember that you get to carve that spot for yourself as well. And how do you do that? You do that by number three, and that is by having open and honest communication and being transparent. Open communication in a heart-centered leadership style allows you to show up very genuinely and authentically as who you are. Look, I never enjoyed having to deliver quote unquote bad news, but you do it. You do it because it's the right thing. You do it because that's about being respectful and hopefully respected in return. You being transparent means, very simply, that people don't have to walk on eggshells around you. They know what they get. Here's another example of this I worked in an organization where you have that open door policy, and it was important to have an open door policy.

John Neral:

And having an open door policy is great, except when you're trying to get your work done. People come by and they want to talk and they have problems and questions and issues and you have an open door policy and so you're a heart centered leader and you'll be like, great, let me help you out. And then you finally get about three minutes to get yourself back into traction and work on what it is that you're doing and then somebody else stops by. So I had an open door policy. I loved it when people stopped by unless I was trying to get my work done. So I had somebody on my team who, at the end of the day, they would always stop by and they would want to chat and talk to me about this going on and that going on, and I found out very quickly that this was great for them, they needed it, but that I wasn't getting my work done on time, and so I was having to stay later, and all of a sudden, my eight hour days became 10, 11, 12 hour days, and that was impacting some things here at home, and so I needed to set a ground role with people on my team, and especially this one person whom I adore and just absolutely loved, loved, loved working with them, and we still keep in touch, which is great. I'm so thankful for that.

John Neral:

But I remember saying to them hey, I'm glad that you stopped by. I said, and I'm always willing to talk to you when I'm able, but I need to communicate to you that I'm having trouble getting my work done, and while I know my primary responsibility is leading this team and taking care of all of you. I got to take care of myself a little bit as well. So here's what I want to ask. Now listen to my phrasing here. Here is what I want to ask. So their brain gets triggered.

John Neral:

There's a question coming. Would you be willing, when you stop by my office the end of the day, to simply begin with, do you have a few minutes to talk? Because the last few times that you've come, you've just seen my door open and just dumped all your stuff on me, and I know I'm here for that, but I'm not getting my work done. If you could simply check in with me to see if I have the time and the bandwidth, I'll answer you, and if I don't, you and I at that moment, right there, are going to make an appointment to reconnect because I want to hear what's going on. But I need to do it in a time that's best for us was simple. Every time that person would come by, they'd be like, hey, do you have a few minutes? Some days I said yes, some days I said no, and when I said no, we just rescheduled that meeting. That's all that impromptu meeting. We just rescheduled it, simple. I was able to honor my values about taking care of my team while, at the same time, honoring my values, about being able to get my work done on time, taking care of the responsibilities that I had and being able to get home.

John Neral:

So leverage your heart-stennedness in ways that allow you to show up and honor the people, the things and responsibilities around you. So, as we wrap up this episode, here's what I want you to do. I want you to think about your leadership style. When you think about your heart-centered leadership, what works really well for you and what's one thing you want to work on that you can improve because of your heart-centered leadership Think about those.

John Neral:

Let me know your thoughts on this episode. Feel free to message me on LinkedIn, or you can email me at johnadjohnnarallcom. Love to hear from you, and if you have any questions as well, feel free to reach out about this particular topic. I'm curious how this resonated with you. All right, my friends, be the amazing heart-centered leaders you are, and until next time, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Follow me on social at John Darrell Coaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.

Challenges of Heart-Centered Leadership
Balancing Heart-Centered Leadership Strategies
Seeking Feedback on Leadership Episode