Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well
Sometimes it seems that the business section of a daily newspaper is just the police blotter with stock charts. The 1% used to be a term for low-fat milk; now it is synonymous with greed and financial corruption. As well, just from talking with one’s friends or work colleagues, does anybody like their job anymore? It all makes one want to quote Bugs Bunny and grumble, ‘I should have stood in bed.’
Well, there are exceptions to the rather gloomy outlook that nobody seems to care, and examples, as well as a framework for improving the work environment, are found in this recently published second edition of Heart-Centered Leadership. To quote authors Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett, “Heart-Centered Leadership is defined as the following: Having the wisdom, courage, and compassion to lead others with authenticity, transparency, humility, and service.”
It is entirely unfair to summarize a reasoned and detailed book into one short phrase, but, essentially, the authors’ strategy boils down to a re-working of the Golden Rule: treat people as human beings by understanding one’s self as a human being. What stresses or conditions make one defensive, cold, snappish, or otherwise negative? What occurrences or thoughts make one pleasant, co-operative, nurturing, and generally positive? Knowing one’s own heart allows one to communicate effectively with colleagues or employees.
This is one of the rare examples of so-called ‘business books’ that is holistic, rather than hierarchical, in nature. Rather than the usual discussion of how to motivate a group or team of people, Heart-Centered Leadership is much more about nurturing the individual, so that a team naturally forms. This may sound like a gossamer-thin nuance, but it is quite a different paradigm from the standard pyramid or ladder of responsibility. The reader is encouraged to both read the testimony of business leaders who have put Steinbrecher and Bennett’s ideas into practice, as well as taking up the challenges they pose as questions and exercises. For example, “When you bad-mouth an associate in front of others, what message does this send? What is your impact? When you publicly show genuine gratitude for an associate’s contribution, what message does this send? What is your impact?”
Heart-Centered Leadership is as valuable an addition to the conversation of business, ethics, and basic human interaction as one is likely to come across in a good long time. One might suggest it will make a fine present to be placed on the boss’ desk; although to be on the safe side, maybe do that anonymously. It takes a certain bravery to look inside one’s self and see just who is living there.
Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett Ph.D
Sustainable Path Publishing