Role Model With 20/20 Insight

This series shines a spotlight on 12 people who achieved success the "right way" -- with heart. I had the privilege of speaking with Jesse Lyn Stoner on the topic of heart-based leadership and I was immediately impressed with her perception on leadership and business.
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This series shines a spotlight on 12 people who achieved success the "right way" -- with heart.

Jesse Lyn Stoner is the co-author of the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead! How to Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and in Your Life, which has been translated into 22 languages.

She is the Executive Director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation and helps leaders connect, collaborate and create.

I had the privilege of speaking with Jesse on the topic of heart-based leadership and I was immediately impressed with her perception on leadership and business.

Read on to find out more about her heart-centered insights.

Lolly Daskal: What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?

Jesse Lyn Stoner: Leadership is about going somewhere, and if you don't know where you're going, how can you lead others? So you might think I'd say that "vision" is the most important characteristic. But it's not. My work and my research over the years has revealed that leaders who lack vision can lead quite effectively if they pull together a strong team that includes people who do have vision... and if they listen to them.

Listening is the one characteristic that underpins the ability to pull together a strong organization. But listening means a lot more than just "hearing." It involves a serious effort to understand what is being said and an openness to different perspectives. It requires having the humility to admit you can be wrong and that you don't need to have all the answers. A lot of leaders don't understand that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

LD: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

JLS: I don't think the fundamentals have changed. Leaders must find a way to create a shared vision that engages the hearts and minds of the people so they are able to work together effectively to fulfill the purpose of the organization. But I do believe we have some unique opportunities today.

First, we have greater capacity for global connection through the Internet, and we are still learning how to harness this opportunity to work virtually with diverse teams.

Our second challenge is to learn to live with the speed of change and to integrate that into how we do business. The only way I know to do that is to be absolutely clear about who you are, so when caught in the midst of storm and turmoil, you stay grounded. This is true at an organizational level and an individual level. I am heartened to see the current interest in bringing the practices of mindfulness into organizations and believe this will help with focusing on what is most important.

The third opportunity has to do with demographics. This is the first time in history we have had four generations in the workplace. And we have more diversity than ever in power positions. I believe we are at a point where we can implement ideas first articulated by early leadership pioneers like Peter Drucker and Peter Block and rethink organizational structures and the use of power and control.

LD: What does heart-based leadership mean to you?

JLS: The heart has to do with making genuine human connections. I don't think you can really listen to another unless you see and respect them as fellow human beings. As leaders, we need to remember that organizations do not exist without people. You can know where the organization needs to go, but you can't get there without the people. You can have the right strategies, but they cannot be implemented without the people. People are not part of the organization, they are the organization. We need to stop thinking of people as human resources and remember they are human beings. We become unbalanced when we are so task-oriented, goal-oriented or focused on the enterprise that we forget that each individual matters.

LD: Who is someone who has inspired you in your life?

JLS: My co-author Ken Blanchard is one of the most down-to-earth people I know. It would be easy for someone that famous to think they were more important than others, and I am continually inspired by his humility and generosity. I remember the first time I had dinner at Ken and Margie's home. I was surprised that right at the beginning of the meal, Ken asked everyone at the table to answer the question, "What are you excited about learning these days?" Instead of thinking he should be entertaining people with his great stories, he wanted to learn and connect with others. It turns out this is how all of their dinner conversations go. I am inspired by the attitude that it is more desirable to learn from others than to bestow knowledge, as it is grounded in the belief that you not the center of the universe, but a participant in something greater. I think this is the basis of humility and creates the platform for the desire to listen deeply to others.


Jesse Lyn Stoner is currently the executive director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the next generation of leaders create a world that works for all. She has authored several business books including the international bestseller 'Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision,' co-authored with Ken Blanchard, which has been translated into 22 languages.

As a consultant, Jesse has worked with leaders in hundreds of organizations using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future.

You can follow her on Twitter @JesseLynStoner and find her on Facebook.

Lolly Daskal is the president and founder of Lead From Within, a coaching and consultant firm that manages large scale corporate coaching and custom made leadership programs. Connect with Lolly Daskal.

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