When you know something by heart, it’s the result of rote learning and mindless repetition, rarely questioning your words or actions, or wondering how it connects with people. Leading by heart is exactly the opposite. Since the last economic depression, there has never been a greater need than there is now, for heart-led leadership. Employee engagement has been steadily dropping over the past decade, universally, and now we have the working from home phenomenon, one that makes shared values and goals even more challenging to address. As a senior member of an organization, you may have been schooled into seeing emotional leadership as a soft and weak approach that works against productivity and profitability. The traditional leadership theories we know, praise analytics and insulation from emotions. The modern leader, however, has to accept that it’s emotions that drive human behavior – more so because we’re no longer putting on our office clothes and employee masks, on our drive to work. It starts with Authenticity Employees are no longer at their desks, in OUR office space. We’re in THEIR space, at desks, in gardens and around kitchen tables. That has required quite a mind shift for leaders: some have got it right, others are still asking – how do we positively engage our employees within their worlds? Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash It starts with authenticity; with heart-led leadership that demonstrates empathy with their situation, respect for their circumstances and gratitude for their teamwork alongside deadlines, goals and KPIs. When you’re invited into their space, arrive there with intention and presence. Start by ensuring that they understand not just the company values, but yours. They need to trust you in their space and in their various states of uncertainty. Live your vision and mission in the way you connect and interact and when you do connect, do it wholeheartedly. But How are you REALLY? Outside of Zoom meetings and calls for progress reports, there’s room for connecting in a new way that shows interest in what they’re experiencing and quietly demonstrates an interest in their circumstances. Make a point of occasionally asking, “But how are you, really?” This creates trust – and trust is what all leadership is going to be needing as we take our businesses into unknown territories. The great leader of the 20s will be the one who finds the balance between chasing profit and building relationships. Gian Visser, CEO of Afrihost, recently pointed out that he needs his employees to know that he loves them. Imagine this happening a couple of decades ago? Unthinkable. Yet here we are in a new century where the millennials and generations following them are motivationally driven by common purpose, acknowledgment, authentic conversations and regular feedback. The most successful leaders today have presence by being present, and by their boldness in leading from the heart, rather than the head. Statistically, they’re the ones enjoying increased productivity and lower staff turnover. If it’s not something you’re used to, it can be an uncomfortable space. Whether you take tentative steps or a giant, bold leap into this unknown, it’s a necessary shift and you’ll reap benefits you hadn’t imagined either.