Significance of Emotional and Psychological Openness in Leaders

December 16, 2019

Why You Need to Embrace Leading with Your Heart

Leaders need to be real. Of course, leaders should set clear goals, find the best people who can get the job done, and reflect upon what was accomplished, what wasn’t, and how to better next time. But while those technical aspects of corporate management are important, it’s even more essential that leaders are truly human.

A good leader needs to be relatable to the people they lead, and they can only do so by being open and vulnerable with their thoughts and feelings. This lesson took me years to learn, but when I did, my point of view completely opened up to new ideas that ultimately made me a better leader than I would’ve ever imagined.

But if you’ve been an avid reader of my blog, you’ve heard my story before. Today, I want to share two lessons on this topic that strengthened my ability to lead.

Why You Should Value Everyone – Because Everyone Has Value

At a Scaling Up Leadership Summit a few years ago, I got to hear Bob Chapman, Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller (BW), and award-winning author Raj Sisodia tell a powerful story about this topic. In the late ’90s, Bob pioneered a dramatically different approach to leadership that created off-the-charts morale, loyalty, creativity and business performance.

The company utterly rejected the idea that employees are simply functions to be moved around on a whim, “managed” with carrots and sticks, and/or discarded at will. Instead, BW chose to manifest the reality that every single person on staff mattered. Everyone. No matter who you were – just like in a family. It wasn’t a cliché on a cut-and-paste mission statement. It was and is the bedrock of the company’s success.

In 2015, the two published Everybody Matters, a book on how Bob came to realize that “truly human leadership” fosters staggering morale, loyalty, and creativity. As Bob stated:

“Everyone wants to do better. Trust them. Leaders are everywhere. Find them. People achieve good things, big and small, every day. Celebrate them. Some people wish things were different. Listen to them. Everybody matters. Show them.”

This sentiment came alive in the subtitle. During a meeting at Penguin Random House, Simon Sinek, Bob, and Adrian Zackheim bounced ideas off one another, eventually arriving upon “The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family.” They wanted it to serve as both a mission statement and a warning for anyone looking at the cover –this is not your typical management read. In fact, Bob’s company, BW, is a tangible example of what happens when leaders exemplify this mission.

Commenting on Bob and Raj’s book, Kip Tindell, chairman & CEO of The Container Store, wrote:

“Through Everybody Matters, Bob and Raj beautifully illustrate the important intersection of business and the true essence of the human spirit. Barry-Wehmiller and its leaders recognize the massive role that work plays in determining people’s self-worth. They understand and embrace that people want to go to work and feel valued, they want to work alongside other caring people and feel great about what they’ve accomplished. When they feel better about themselves, they go home and treat their families, their friends and their communities better.”

Only leaders who practice emotional and psychological openness can make this happen. Modern leadership practices and training lack even the most basic humanity. But when you showcase your humanity and value it in your people, you find a direct path to sustained growth for your company.

Ultimately, authentic openness should be taken to heart by business leaders everywhere. And it all starts with this fundamental principle:

The people doing the work are the ones who make the difference – not the managers.

True Leaders Exemplify Humility and Intelligence

I also heard business management writer, Pat Lencioni, speak on this subject. In his book, The Ideal Team Player, Pat states three virtues every leader must master to succeed – the first and most important virtue of which is humility. It’s as simple as:

·       Be polite

·       Learn how to compliment without hesitation

·       Ask your colleagues how they feel

·       Listen

·       Easily admit your mistakes

A humble employee is more concerned with the success of the team rather than getting credit for their own contributions. This often includes taking on lower-level work for the good of the team. A humble team player can honestly acknowledge their skills, but they don’t do it in a boastful way. They gladly share credit for team accomplishments, and they offer and accept apologies graciously. People who lack humility, the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention, are dangerous for a team.

The second of Pat’s virtues, smart, isn’t about intelligence; it’s about being wise in your interactions with people. Such leaders are emotionally intelligent and have common sense about people. They tend to know what is happening in a group situation, which means they can effectively work with others. These people have good judgment and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words and actions. Most importantly for young leaders to remember, they demonstrate an interest in the lives of their employees.

As Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein write in Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust:

“In our view, leadership is always a relationship, and truly successful leadership thrives in a group culture of high openness and high trust.”

Leaders with emotional and psychological openness create intangible yet essential advantages in their workplaces, including better engagement, improved culture, and higher performance.

If you would like to grow your emotional intelligence, I recommend starting with the following books:

·       The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

·       The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  

·       The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer  

·       The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer,

·       Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks  

·       Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.

Are you ready to take the leap in becoming more emotionally available for yourself, your fellow leaders, and your people? Contact me today for a free initial consultation on how you can become the leader you’ve always dreamed you could be.