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7 Ways to Lead With Your Heart

An important Valentine's Day reminder: Great leaders know how to blend the analytical with the emotional. That doesn't make you a softie. Just the opposite.
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Too often business is all about doing what your head tells you to do rather than your heart. Leaders are ideally positioned to put humanity, compassion, and purpose back into the workplace, so why not use that power? By putting people first, and by tapping into employees' unlimited wells of creativity, initiative, and productivity, the psychic and the financial rewards to your company will be truly remarkable. Here's how.

1. Connect work to a mission.

If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. The heart-centered leader is a master of divining an organization's mission and then developing a vision for what paths the organization should take to achieve it. Everyone's work is positioned as part of a larger, big-story purpose. As Xerox PARC guru John Seely Brown puts it, "The job of leadership today is not just to make money. It's to make meaning."

2. Speaking of connect. . . Connect!

Business is built on a foundation of strong relationships both inside and outside the organization. This makes two-way communication and true dialogue with your people critically important. The best leaders encourage an open flow of ideas throughout the organization and break down the walls that separate employees from one another.

3. Leave no employee behind.

None of us is as smart as all of us. Every employee is a source of unlimited ideas on how to improve his or her organization’s products, work processes, and systems. Most employees simply need to be invited to participate and then positively reinforced when they do. However, employee participation only works in an environment of complete and unconditional trust.

4. Don't just tolerate work-life balance, insist on it.

In the past, companies demanded--and got--the best part of their employees' lives. Today, the people who run the most successful companies have learned that helping workers balance their lives on the job and off results in a healthy environment with less stress, much higher productivity, and much lower employee turnover. That is a sure recipe for a better bottom line.

5. Share the wealth.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich provides two compelling reasons that organizations should share financial success with their employees: First, if you want to attract and keep talent, you have to pay for it.  Second, if you want that talent to work with the enthusiasm that comes from ownership, you have to trade equity for it. By sharing the wealth with your people (through competitive pay, performance bonuses, stock options, and the like), you create extremely powerful organizational glue.

6. Have more fun.

Employees who have fun at work are happy employees, and happy employees are more productive employees. Not only that, but research shows that fun restores immunity, elevates endorphins, and reduces diseases and work absences. Can't think of anything fun to do? Consider afternoon bowling outings, baseball games, cookouts, goofy hats, impromptu karaoke contests, and mock casinos for a start. Or just ask your employees.

7. Believe in the power of one.

When you lead with your heart, others are sure to be touched, both inside and outside the organization. Putting people first is the key to unleashing the full power and creativity of employee teams, superior customer service, strengthened client relations, and closer and more productive relationships with vendors and suppliers. One person can make all the difference in the world, and there's every reason for that person to be you.

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Last updated: Feb 14, 2014

PETER ECONOMY

While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.




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