To be clear, there are as many different leadership styles as there are people. Yes, lots of smart people have created models to define and describe basic leadership styles, and yet all of us bring our uniqueness to the equation too. Perhaps the simplest of leadership style models divides leaders into “people leaders” and “task leaders”.
Leaders must be focused on both tasks and people – leaning too far either way can cause challenges for the leader and those following them. The cleaner and less complicated approach is to lean towards the task focus. Here is the rationale for this position:
“I was hired to do a job, to get a result. As long as I am getting the results, and the tasks are being completed, that is all that matters. I wasn’t hired to be a friend; I was hired to get people to the goal.”
All of that is true, and yet the balance to this approach is to recognize that you are leading people, not managing assets or resources. If you personally lean toward the task focus, I hope the list below challenges you. If you already lean toward a people focus perhaps you will find some validation here, but more importantly, I hope you notice where to put your heart, as you lead towards the results and goals in front of you.
When I talk about leaders having a big heart, I am talking about five factors that lead with the letters in HEART.
Human. You are human and if you want to lead others more effectively, they must see you as such. You make mistakes and you have weaknesses. When you let others see that and recognize it in yourself, people will see you as more real (and if you think they don’t see your weaknesses because you don’t mention them, you are fooling yourself anyway). When your team can see more of the real you, they are more likely to choose to follow.
Empathy. There is a difference between sympathy and empathy and it is important here. Sympathy is a feeling of care and understanding for the suffering and feelings of others. Empathy on the other hand, is understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes. Often leaders try to be sympathetic, yet empathy is far more powerful. The best leaders “put themselves in the shoes” of others by thinking of similar situations, or sharing their own related situations. We are much more likely to follow someone when we can identify with them in some way – true empathy is one of the best ways to do that.
Attitude. Attitude isn’t about logic, it is all emotion. Many leaders downplay the importance of their attitude, but are the first to lament that the attitude of their team isn’t positive. Attitude is as contagious as any virus, and the most contagious member of your team is you as the leader. It is OK to be disappointed and frustrated, and showing that to your team in small doses can be quite powerful. But they also need to see your positive passion and belief on display as often as possible.
Relationships. People want to be led by people they know and like. If you want to lead more effectively, find ways to connect with and get to know more about more of your team members. Remember that your goal isn’t to make friends (though that might happen), but rather to be friendly and genuinely interested in others. While there isn’t a formula, leading from your heart certainly includes building stronger and more lasting working relationships with others.
Trust. Ask yourself this question; are you more likely to follow someone you trust, or someone you don’t? Hint – others are just like you so trust matters, a lot. They want to follow someone they trust, and that can be you. Trust deserves more than this short treatment, but let’s just say this: trust is both a noun and a verb. If you want to build others’ trust in you (the noun), trust them more (the verb). In other words, to get more of the noun, do more of the verb.
All five of these components acknowledge that we are leading, living, breathing, feeling human beings. When through our behaviors we show people we remember this, we can get the results we want and need through cooperation, belief and confidence, and not just from the facts and objectives.
Ultimately the best leaders do realize that they must bring their heart to their work. It is your work as an individual leader to figure out exactly how you will do that. Hopefully these five factors help you think this through for yourself.