8 sure signs that your leadership style needs tuning

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Most entrepreneurs recognize that success depends on their product expertise, as well as some knowledge of how to run a business. In fact, I have found from personal experience and advice that these are both necessary, but not sufficient, to build a business. Successful entrepreneurs today must practice human-centered leadership to compete and win.

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There are several leadership styles that may have worked well in the past, including authoritarian and patriarchal. But in this new age of relationships, they often work against your business. There is more and more evidence that more human-centered or heart-centered leadership produces the best results with your team and with customers in the long run.

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As top business consultants and major proponents of this leadership style, Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett, in their classic book “Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well,” do a great job at detailing why this approach And how it happens. More satisfaction and well-being for the team, and by extension, bottom line benefits and business impact.

Here are some examples from his book and my experience of several indicators, challenges that entrepreneurs will probably recognize, which highlight the need for greater attention to the value and human element:

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The collaborative team sessions seem to be dragging on. Entrepreneurs often complain about time wasted in meetings, because one of the team members just wants to be heard, or feels that what he or she has to say isn’t valuable. Great leaders learn to actively listen to conversations, so people can’t stop progress just for the sake of understanding. Disruptive office politics begins to show. Startups with weak instructions, poor communication and ineffective cultures are breeding grounds for negative interpersonal dynamics. Office politics is really about selfishness and self-esteem. Heart-centered leaders create busy teams that are too motivated to waste time on politics. Investments and acquisitions fail. Failure is often not due to fiscal irresponsibility or a lack of due diligence. Business-to-business relationships usually fail because the leadership team underestimates the impact and importance of recognizing the human element. Effective entrepreneurial leaders focus on meeting people’s needs quickly. Team conflicts become individual fights. Struggle and fight are not the same thing. The best entrepreneurs understand their people and embrace the creative struggle to steer through the maze of innovation and change common to each startup. Toxic relationships are emotional, often personal, disagreements that are counter-productive. The demand for coaching, counseling and discipline training is high. The most commonly used workplace training programs are really about matters of the heart. Managers need coaching, mentoring, and training in discipline because they tend to resist or have difficulty communicating with team members. Punishment at the workplace is not a motivator for change. Difficulties retaining key employees. Top team members rarely leave the company. Often they leave their boss. Often, quitting is a response to a perceived lack of leadership or appreciation by key executives. Human-centered leaders connect with each team member on an individual level to ensure ongoing commitment. Evidence of crossing the line ethically. If entrepreneurs pay special attention only to the bottom line, team members may convince themselves that they have to bend the rules in order to be successful, which can easily lead to lies, fraud, and theft. Leaders need to focus on a human-centered culture in their actions as well as in each message. The customer relations culture is slipping. If the business culture in your startup isn’t human-centered, your startup can’t sell and compete on the strength of your customer relationships. That startup culture has to come from the start and from the top, which means heart-centered leadership from the entrepreneur.

There is increasing evidence that teams and leaders that focus on the human element not only live well, but are also winning in their profit-making objectives. Examples of exemplary companies practicing this model include Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods. Both of these are human-centered businesses that boast of high growth, high loyalty and low employee turnover.

How evident in your leadership style is your commitment to personal understanding, open mindedness, authenticity, trust and integrity? If you haven’t tried it, or you’re not getting a response from your team, it’s probably time to take a hard look in the mirror. it’s never too late to learn.

marty gemini

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