After more than 25 years in the workforce, I have found the best way to lead is with your heart. Learning to lead with your heart and not your job title will create greater success with your team. In the early years I had no idea how to lead others. All I knew is I had a management title and I was going to make my team follow. I had a few good characteristics of a leader, such as persistence, friendliness and being approachable. But one thing I did not know how to do was to connect with my team as a leader and to be true to them and vulnerable. I thought the title of a manager gave me the right to lead my team. I had no problem managing my team but I did not get to know my team and learn their strengths. There is a big difference between leading with a title and leading with the heart.
“As a leader you want people to follow you because they want to, not because they have to.” John Maxwell
When I received my first management position, my team essentially followed me because they had to. I lead with my title and not my heart. I did not connect with my team and really get to know them. I did not make myself vulnerable. Why would I want my staff to see any mistakes I made? I believed if they saw me make mistakes that I would not be worthy in their eyes. I thought that I had to always be one step ahead of my staff and always know all the answers. It was if I had to constantly prove to the team that I was their leader. I could never just relax in my position and I didn’t feel it was alright to not know everything in my department or to need their help in figuring out a problem. As a result of this type of leadership, which by the way had no depth, my department began to fail. Many of my staff left and moved on to other jobs. I cannot help but think I caused this situation by not being a real leader with a real heart. Just because I had a management title did not mean I should force my rule or better yet only wanting them to give to me without getting anything in return. I was a leader with a cold heart. What did I expect?
This was an eye opening experience. I have never forgotten how leading this way was a sure way to disengage a team. I learned a team can only go so far under this type of leadership. Once a leader establishes that they are the leader by position, then the leader has to get off of that and get to know their team. I got another chance to rebuild my team, and this time, I made some drastic changes on how to approach my team and how to engage with them. I still made mistakes but I began to learn and get comfortable with leading with my heart rather than leading with a title. Leading effectively takes practice and lots of it.
When a leader engages and is real with their staff, the team gets energized. Now, the team will follow the leader because they want to not because they have to. I led my team with my heart and not my title. Everyone knows who the manager is by the title. The real job comes in how a leader engages and gets to know their staff. As you spend time with your team you will learn who is better at different tasks. Eventually, you will begin to find leaders in your team who you can mentor to help you. A leader who gets down in the weeds with their team and can take a hit for the team when needed is all a part of leading well.
If you are a young leader, learn quickly to lead from your heart and you will be the leader everyone wants to be with. If you are a more seasoned leader, remember not to get comfortable in leading the way you always have but to broaden yourself and be to open show your staff that they are needed and to engage with them. To show them you are open to new ideas and thoughts.
Leading with your heart will create a new level of leadership that is so healthy not only for you but for your team. The energy of togetherness will emerge. Your team will grow and lead well for you.