Updated: Apr 14
Let's be honest, showing your heart or emotion has traditionally been considered weak. This is especially true if you are in leadership, where women are judged for showing emotions and men are only "allowed" to show a certain few. I believe that the tide is starting to change...
When I was promoted to my first leadership role over 20 years ago, I felt I had to remove emotion. As a woman wanting to be a respected leader in the primarily male-dominated industry of Financial Services, I thought to be taken seriously I needed to be more distant, cold and maybe a little heartless. Fearing that I would be one of “those” women that was too emotional, I over-corrected.
I am a woman who when I feel something deeply, there maybe some tears. Good tears of joy and tears of stress, frustration, or sadness. I’m also a naturally “nice” and upbeat person. Taking on the leadership persona that was serious and all about the numbers was somewhat of a challenge.
What I’ve learned in over 20 years of leadership is that when you are not authentic – they know! It’s who we are inside that makes us unique as leaders, therefore we must show what’s on the inside.
Many people feel that showing emotions is weakness, but as a leader, showing your emotions helps build authenticity and trust. When you don’t show emotion, people wonder what you’re hiding. Or your communication isn’t clear because you’re trying to dance around the issue. Showing only positive emotions also seems inauthentic, so it’s ok to show that you’re frustrated or disappointed in a measured way.
I’m not recommending that you let your emotions pour out like a fountain. Instead, I'm suggesting you be real and OK with who you are, unapologetic about being a person who has emotions. Know what your triggers might be that create a greater emotional reaction and have a strategy in place of what you will do when you need or want to control the flow based on the situation. Remember to keep anger in check and direct it toward a situation rather than a person. Having a plan and monitoring your emotions is being Self-Aware and practicing Self-Management.
How to Show Your Heart
Research agrees that authentic and genuine leaders are highly regarded and admired. In Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge (sixth edition), the top four characteristics that a leader can have and why people choose to follow them are Honest, Competent, Inspiring & Forward-Looking.
Three of the four are EQ (Emotion) based vs. IQ (Intelligence). Kouzes and Posner state that, “leadership comes from the heart and from a place of being genuine, being vulnerable, and bringing your whole self to work”.
Attributed to many, the well-known quote, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” supports the philosophy that your ability to show your heart is much more valuable to those you lead.
You can show your heart by deciding to CARE.
One of the things so many leaders fail to do is spend enough time one-to-one with those that they lead. They never take the time to uncover common bonds or understand their team members’ dreams, hopes or desires. The time commitment of one-to-one and focusing on the human in front of you creates a connection.
One open-ended question will generally begin the work of creating a connection. You can start with a basic inquiry on what they did for fun on their last day off. This type of question can get you started on the journey of understanding what’s most important and valued by your team member.
Do you know the language of appreciation your team member speaks? This month we read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman for our Book Club. I’ve also taken time to read The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White. The 5 languages covered in both are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gifts, and Physical Touch.
Knowing a team-member’s preferences allows you as the leader to show appreciation that is highly personalized. If your goal is to effectively show appreciation for employees’ contribution to the team’s success, wouldn’t you want to know the best way to show appreciation? Appreciation must come from the heart and does not have to be related to job performance.
A few things we want to appreciate might be when a team member stays late to complete a project, takes initiative, comes in on their day off, suggests an improvement to a process or does anything that makes your job easier!
Recognize & Reward
Rewards and Recognition are not the same as Appreciation. These are ways you should celebrate job performance. Is the team-member a top performer? How you decide to recognize and reward must also be personalized.
If you choose to survey your team using a tool like the Motivating By Appreciation (MBA) survey found in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, you can find out if the team-member prefers public or private kudos. Your company may have a company-wide recognition program. Your challenge as their leader is to decide if there are additional areas you want to reward or recognize relative to your specific team, project, unit, etc. AND make it personal!
Simple actions as leaders can be encouraging to our team. How much fun are you having at work? Think about the last time you created a moment of levity at work and helped your team overcome some stress with a little laughter. Showing your fun side is not bad – it can positively impact the overall culture and sense of community at your workplace.
What are you doing to help them grow in their career? Help your team-member plan their path to that next promotion opportunity or even schedule the next course or training session that will help them rise.
Is your leadership example creating a culture that is supportive? Encouragement from not only you as their leader, but also from peers can make a big difference in a person’s overall work experience and helps with retention.
All of the CARE elements I discussed come from your heart. A personalized and authentic effort from your heart