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August 22, 2022

The Evolution of The Successful Leader


The pandemic caused many people to reexamine their life priorities, including their relationship to work. Employers today are still confronting challenges posed by the Great Resignation, with roughly 20% of workers planning to quit their jobs still in 2022, according to a recent report by PwC. This naturally shifts the balance of power from senior leadership to employees, and that means leaders must focus more than ever on truly listening to what their employees want and need.

Successful leaders are going to be asked to show their humanity and heart more and more, by listening intently, being willing to be vulnerable, recognizing and rewarding team members for their contributions, and building more flexible and individualized work arrangements to keep people committed and engaged. This means embracing the mentality of Heart First leadership.

Today’s Biggest Influence on Businesses

In addition to the ongoing disruption of the pandemic and challenges with turnover, there’s a staggering array of events occurring all at once that put immense pressure on organizations. I see the pressures falling into four main categories.

  • Anxiety over pandemic-caused breakdowns
  • Managing people who aren’t “present” or who are challenging traditional expectations
  • Cost pressures with massive pricing and inflation worries
  • Civic and civil tension, which includes new questions about how to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion

Change is clearly here to stay. Because of that reality, we need to stop trying to simply weather the storms in search of a quieter day. Leadership must focus on building better coping skills, both personally and for their teams, so they can help their organizations be more agile and resilient.

Leaders Must Be Ready to Respond

Leaders in the future are going to have to learn how to lead with more empathy, humanity and authenticity. That’s not just coming from me; many recent studies underscore the reality that Heart First leadership works for employees and for businesses, leading to decreased employee turnover, increased productivity and improved efficiency.

Three key research findings drive this home for me:

  • Employees are 10x more likely to recommend an organization as a great employer when leaders lead with transparency (Leadership IQ Survey, June 2017)
  • 86% of employees reported being better able to navigate the demands of work when leaders were empathetic (Forbes, Sept 2021 – Catalyst survey)
  • 90% of employees believe empathetic leadership leads to high job satisfaction (EY Consulting Survey, October 2021)

Examples of Outstanding Leadership

There are many leaders I’ve worked with personally who’ve inspired me over the past two years. CEOs of essential workers who made a point to be on the front line with employees when the pandemic first hit. Leaders who brought their teams together for candid conversations about equity and inclusion in corporate America following the murder of George Floyd. And, most recently, those who have continued to navigate difficult topics around gun violence, and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Or, supply chain leaders who called employees around the world to offer support, listen to concerns and find ways to collaborate and problem solve together.

I think of one household cleaning products leader who supported his team’s work to start a new line in six days – work that might otherwise have taken six months. I also was impressed by the decision of a major healthcare provider who brought us in to help their leaders communicate in a more open, strategic and empathetic way. Even in the midst of intense time pressures and stress, they took the time to get the listening and communication right because they knew just how important it was.

Leaders Who Lead with Heart Stand Out

In general, the leaders who succeeded did so not just because they made their vision and strategy clear – they led from the heart, demonstrating empathy, humanity and authenticity whenever they could.

What leaders often miss is that succeeding is so much more than just establishing a smart strategy. It’s about the people and the culture. It’s how you listen to your team and bring employees together to accomplish remarkable things. Outstanding strategic communication, intensely listening and responding to the needs of employees, is a major driver of successful business outcomes.

What are some ways you could demonstrate empathy, humanity and authenticity today to best set yourself, and your teams, up for success?

—David Grossman

Leaders play a pivotal role in connecting, calming, and inspiring their teams. A big part of that is leading with Heart First. Get or give free copies of Heart First by clicking below to select your option and submit your book order today!

Click to request a free copy of Heart First for you, your team, or a leader you know - The Grossman Group

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