Colin Powell was my role model for leading from the heart.

by placers on October 29, 2021 in Outside Insights


Every month in our “Placers 101” new employee orientation, team members participate in an exercise that helps them understand the concept of leadership and specifically what I refer to as the concept of “leading from the heart”. 

The lesson aims to ingrain an important fact into our team: That we get to choose how we show up, rise to the challenge, and, generally, react to every life event that we are presented with.

Leading from the heart behaviors often show up as being humble, sincere, selfless, and inclusive. People who lead from the heart often come across as honest, approachable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable. On any given day they always have the best interest of others at heart.

Leading from the heart is not an easy path. Employees don’t want managers as friends. We crave feedback and require candor for our professional development. We want to test boundaries but need to be held to a certain standard as we do so. Our culture at Placers rewards risk-taking, which means we experience plenty of boundary testing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As part of the “leading from the heart” exercise, the team spends time reflecting on two role types of role models in their lives. Role models from their everyday private lives, such as a pastor, a neighbor, or mentor, and a role model in the public eye, such as a politician, entertainer, business leader, etc. 

I encourage you to do the same and follow along for the rest of the exercise – it will be quick, but can be very helpful for developing your own leadership philosophy. 

After you have your list, write down the characteristics that you admire about them. What is their leadership style like? What memories do you have with them and what stories have you heard? How do they live and lead from the heart? 

Whenever I conduct this exercise with someone, a funny thing usually happens – for a good five minutes, people are often staring at a blank sheet of paper. Every day we see and know what poor leadership looks, acts, and feels like. Good leadership can often feel like a rare commodity. 

But to develop and practice our own leadership philosophy – to know what leading from the heart truly means – we must identify these role models. We must learn their stories, philosophies and grow from their example. 

So, here’s a good one for you.

In honor of Colin Powell’s passing earlier this month, I would like to memorialize him here as the ultimate leader who led with his heart. Colin Powell was the consummate professional, soldier, statesman, and diplomat.  What I love most about Colin Powell was his transparency and directness and his humor. He had a clear willingness to talk with and connect with everyone around him. In my readings and research on Colin, there are countless examples where his leadership involved direct contact with front-line staff. Those who worked with him shared that his leadership approach instilled tremendous pride and feelings of team unity and loyalty. Few public leaders are willing to change and stand on their own with their beliefs. I see the greatness in standing up for what you believe every step of the way as Mr. Powell did many times throughout his life.

– He was a soldier for 35 years and led troops in combat in Vietnam.

– He was a four-star General.

– He was National Security Advisor to President Reagan.

– And is only the second American to ever serve as Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and as Secretary of State.

It’s my opinion that the world needs better heroes and more leaders to emulate.  We have enough billionaires, athletes, and politicians to go around. We need more humility.  We need more integrity, transparency, and trustworthiness.  As a soldier, diplomat, and leader Colin Powell is that hero. He led from the heart.

Who are your leadership role models? Do you know of someone who leads from the heart? What impact did they have on you? Reply and let me know.

Until next time, friends. 


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