[Coaching Tips for Great Leaders] Leading from the Heart

I don’t  live in Marin County, California even though my son goes to grade school there. And I’ll confess that I am more likely than not to be Marin-a-phobic.

So if this post reads a little too new age, dharma breath, hot tubs, and organic tofu  – in other words, all the stuff you might associate with Marin – be aware that I am one of the most earnest and pragmatic people around.

The New York Times carried a piece on Thomas Keller (What the Last Meal Taught Him) this week that is a great read for any aspiring chef, as well as aspiring leader. Keller, for those who don’t know, is the chef and owner of one of the temples of gourmet dining, the French Laundry in Yountvile, California. From those origins he has built a multimillion dollar business world of multiple restaurants, cook books, and related activities.

And apart from being one of the world’s foremost chefs, he may be, to quote the Wall Street Journal, “the food world’s reigning perfectionist.”

That moniker – “reigning perfectionist” – is not the stuff from which warm and fuzzy is usually made. But Keller’s transition – softening is the word used in the article – from someone who built his work (solely) on precision, analysis, and control to someone who came to appreciate that understood that about some things there are no guarantees, that life “is messy” and that relationships are important.

The path that Keller has taken, leading more from the heart , has made him more effective as a business leader. It’s the same attribute that Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner surface in their work of over 25 years looking at highly effective leaders and the characteristics and attributes that they possess as they have surveyed over 1 million leaders worldwide. Their work The Leadership Challenge covers the broad attributes of effective leadership their research verifies. Their book Encouraging the Heart helps identify some of the strategies and tactics available for leading from the heart and putting people first.

Just as Keller as likely experienced as he has shifted his style, the Kouzes-Pozner data illustrates that in order to effectively lead people over a period of time a leader has to care about them. Positive things happen when people work for leaders who demonstrate care for them, and that do not only people feel better about themselves but research demonstrates that they perform at a higher level. Last, people perform better when they feel appreciated, are kept informed about what happens in organizations, and they feel they are listened to.

As Thomas Keller is discovering – or perhaps has discovered – successful leaders recognize the importance of leading from the heart.

As Keller notes, “It is so important to have relationships.”