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This Just In: Leadership May Be Popularity Contest After All

Sometimes I find it difficult to explain to people what distinguishes The Leading from the Heart Workshop from other management training courses. Yesterday, someone unknowingly explained it to me.

I was meeting with a friend-of-a-friend, making a sales pitch for the workshop. During our conversation, she expressed some of the frustrations she felt in a new leadership role and half-jokingly described herself as a "bad manager." But as our discussion was coming to a close, she made a statement that nearly knocked me off my chair. "I know," she said, "that it's possible to be a good leader and still have people like me."

Countless management sages advised me during my corporate career, "Leadership is not a popularity contest. Your employees don't have to like you; they just have to respect you." As a result, in my early management roles I felt a bit spineless when--in my heart--I truly cared what my employees thought of me as a leader and as a person.

Then I realized something that justified ignoring the advice of my well-meaning mentors. I recognized my own lack of respect for anyone leading me who I disliked. And my philosophy as a leader became clear: employees have to like you before they can respect you.

Values-based leadership allows managers to avoid factoring in their popularity when making difficult decisions. Getting employees to like and respect them simply requires that leaders Live By The Values They Profess. By proactively demonstrating the correlation between your personal values and those of the organization, you'll simultaneously show your employees alliance to their values and validate their fond feelings for you.

"Leading from the Heart" means having the luxury of being effective and having your employees like you. I just might have to reprint my business cards.
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