Great Leaders Have a Heart for Their People

I’ve had my fair share of working with great leaders in my career. If you asked me which of these leaders had the most impact, I would choose Linda. So what was it about Linda that made her such a great leader?

A Good Leader…

Being a good leader is about gaining credibility and developing your knowledge, skills and abilities to create strategy and vision for your people. It’s about having focus and courage to lead strategic plans to move the company forward. It can also be about meeting with your people regularly and providing feedback.

Yes. All of those things are important but if that’s all you are doing, it is not enough in today’s world.

Our workforce is becoming multi-generational, culturally diverse, and gender-balanced. Every individual in your business and team are different. You’ve likely read articles already about how to manage different generations or different cultural backgrounds. While that information is valuable, you cannot label people by overgeneralizing and assume that, based on their profile, this is how you should lead that person. If you are leading people by what a book or an article advises you to do, then you’re missing the most crucial element of how to be a great leader.

A Great Leader…

My mother passed away from cancer a few years ago. During that difficult time, Linda was one of the few people that were truly there for me. She knew and experienced what I was going through. She listened when I was frustrated. She empathized with me when I was worried. She was there when I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t go to her to get answers. I confided in her because I trusted her and could talk to her at any time about anything.

It was her compassion, her willingness to listen, her vulnerability to share her own life stories, and her genuine kindness that makes her standout amongst all the leaders that I’ve worked for.

Being a great leader is about having a heart for your people and to genuinely care about how to support people through their struggles. Leaders must recognize that the differentiating factor amongst people is not the generation they are in nor what colour their skin is nor what gender they belong to. It is being able to understand where their peoples’ hearts are at and being there to support them in times of need.

Some people are flying high and never have any issues. Leaders can support them by cheering them on, providing positive reinforcement, and recognizing their efforts. That is the easy part of being a leader. However, there are others who may be struggling in their personal life and leaders need to recognize how to be genuinely empathetic and available to listen at any time. If your first knee-jerk reaction when employees are dealing with personal issues is to advise them to call a 1-800 employee assistance program (EAP) phone number, then that gesture screams that you don’t have time for them and that you just don’t care. If you’re a leader that genuinely cares for your people, then your people will come to you naturally for advice or to vent their frustrations. You will automatically become their sounding board. Imagine the impact that you will have on that one person when he/she shows signs of improvement and you helped to make that difference in their life. Much of the effort is being available, having time, and listening to your people. Most of the time, people aren’t looking for solutions to their problems but just need someone there to listen. However, if the situation is beyond your comfort level or is posing risk to your employee or others then definitely use your judgment and offer EAP.

Our team was a well-oiled machine when we worked for Linda. We were able to get the tasks completed when and where it mattered most because we were not hindered by the weight of our personal problems. We certainly had our moments, but Linda always supported us and trusted in our abilities.

Her ever-lasting impact in my career was not all about how to become a stronger HR professional; it was about how to be a humble and compassionate leader.

A great leader can get the most out of their people professionally, and make a difference in their life personally.