Mark C. Crowley

Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century

What people feel in their hearts has profound influence over their motivation & workplace performance.
“In contrast to longstanding management thinking, the heart is the driving force of human achievement, and employee engagement is a decision of the heart.”
– Mark C. Crowley
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A Balance Between Masculine And Feminine Traits: The Requirements For Success As A 21st Century Leader

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Wisdom From Other Authors |

The Athena Doctrine“I think we need the feminine qualities of leadership, which include attention to aesthetics and the environment, nurturing, affection, intuition and the qualities that make people feel safe and cared for.”                      

 – Deepak Chopra

Just before my book, Lead From The Heart, was published, a public relations executive told me directly: “Your book is terrific, but no one in business is going to take it seriously unless you change the title.”

In the context of workplace leadership, it’s the word, “heart” that instinctively strikes many people as being soft, sentimental and weak.  From my PR friend’s perspective, managing with any degree of care or advocacy simply isn’t regarded as being manly.  And, since men largely dominate leadership positions, he urged me to rename the book.

I chose to go forward with the title, of course, full knowing I’d face some initial resistance.  And ever since, I’ve made it my intention to find as much compelling evidence as possible to prove the solution to the world’s employee engagement crisis lies in leadership practices that positively affect the hearts in people.  This is all I write about.

So I begin this blog by expressing my profound appreciation to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Michael D’Antonio, and his best selling co-author, John Gerzema.   Their new book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women, And The Men Who Think Like Them, Will Rule The Future, offers remarkable insight into what it takes to excel as a leader in the 21st Century.  And, just as Deepak Chopra insightfully suggests in his quote above, their conclusion is that effective leadership today requires a greater balance between male and female traits and values – equilibrium of mind and heart.

Gerzema and D’Antonio initiated a survey of 64,000 people – all chosen to mirror the populations in 13 countries (e.g. the US, Mexico, South Korea, Germany and the UK) that represent 65% of the world’s domestic product.  As experienced researchers, the authors intentionally sought a wide range of cultural, geographical, political, religious and economic diversity.

To summarize what they discovered: The skills required to thrive in today’s world – such as honesty, empathy, communication, appreciation and collaboration – are widely regarded as being on the feminine side of human nature. Consequently, we’ve reached the end of the hyper-masculine era in leadership as these and many other feminine qualities have become more highly valued.

Here’s a summary of their findings:  

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Why Caring Leaders Will Be Talent Magnets In A Revived Economy

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership |

Employee MagnetSome day people will ask me what is the key to my success…and I will simply say, “good karma.”
                                                              K. Krumley

Just as I was about to get into my car this morning, and to head out to an important meeting, I noticed a big blister bubble on the outside of my front tire.

Without needing a closer look, I immediately could see the tire was primed for a huge and imminent kaboom, and knew I needed to make fast work of finding a replacement.

As life often works once you’ve been dealt an initial setback, more challenges were to come my way. “You have extremely uncommon tires,” I heard at least a dozen different tire store employees tell me after I called to check on pricing and availability. “We won’t be able to get you one of those for at least a week.”

And, because of something called “German engineering,” I also discovered my spare tire would only fit on the rear.

After a few hours of very stressful searching, I finally found my replacement at a Discount Tires store in a town several miles away.  Gratefully, this is where my fate changed, and where I found a team of incredibly happy and productive employees ready to help me.

When Eric picked up the phone, I told him I’d been searching high and low, and had grown panicked over not being able to find a new tire.  Apparently trained to calm down customers like me, Eric immediately assured me he’d search every store in his chain if he didn’t have one in stock.

As I held on the phone while he combed his inventory, Eric suddenly yelled out, “I got it! I got it!”   It was if he’d taken my problem, made it his to solve, and then took enormous joy in making it happen.  He seemed as excited as I was!

Remembering that I had a bubble potentially ready to pop, he next insisted I grab a pencil and write down directions that would ensure I traveled the back roads to his store and not the freeways.  This guy was concerned about my safety!

Upon my arrival, I was greeted with genuine expressions of concern.  Eric and his boss each vocalized their gratitude that I made it there in one piece, and later offered me a discount when I decided to buy two tires instead of one.   This was just an amazing customer experience!

While I was waiting for the tire installation to be completed, Eric’s boss confided that I’d find the exact same service at any store in his chain.  He told me he’d worked as a manager at Discount Tires for over a decade, and insisted employees were developed, rewarded and cared for in ways that made them all enormously loyal and engaged.  I left that store very impressed.

Later that same day, I happened to be chatting with Jay Jamrog, Senior Vice President of Research at the Institute For Corporate Productivity (i4cp), and asked him why my tire-buying experience struck me as being so unusual.   He instantly reminded me of something I already knew.

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A Leadership Lesson From Howard Stern. Yes, that Howard Stern

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons |

Howard Stern On America's Got Talent“Not every contestant can be wonderful.” “You’ve got to be up front with people.”
                                                Howard Stern

Until now, I’d never imagined writing a blog about radio’s shock jock, Howard Stern; nor did I ever expect we all might learn an important leadership lesson from him.

But Stern’s recent behavior while judging a TV talent competition offers a truly compelling example of effective leadership and, dare I say, of leading from the heart.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Howard Stern, he is a long-running talk-radio show host who’s built a reputation for doing very racy sketches and, quite often, saying highly controversial things.

And because Stern typically speaks his mind in a most unvarnished manner, many media pundits have predicted he will be an especially harsh new judge on America’s Got Talent.  Think Simon Cowell on steroids.

In the first show of the season, Stern is almost immediately put to the test.  A seven-year-old rap singer is one of the earliest performers and, let’s just say, he’s not yet all that good.

Stern isn’t quick to react, but inevitably decides he’s heard enough.  He pushes the “X” button in front of him which effectively ends the youngster’s hopes and dreams of going on further on the show.   Not surprisingly, the little guy is crushed by his unexpected dismissal and immediately begins to cry.

It’s in this moment that Stern defies his critics.  Instinctively, and without saying a word, he walks up on stage, gives the boy a hug, and calms him down.

I’ll come back to Stern’s act of admirable compassion in a moment.

Last Wednesday night, I tuned in to see the final four singers perform on American Idol.   At this point in the competition, of course, each of the remaining contestants is very, very good.  Nonetheless, one person will be given the heave-ho until a champion is crowned and only a slight singing imperfection in these final weeks likely will be the reason someone gets booted.

Noting that all three Idol judges, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, are highly experienced music industry experts, I fully expected them to parse out the differences among the four finalists and to help the voting audience discern which three performing artists deserved to survive another week.

But none of them really did.  While one singer truly bombed on one song — and the judges let her know it — generally, all four singers were lauded with what appeared to be equivalent praise.  In my opinion, the judges failed to do their job.

We have it in our minds that criticism stings and, as leaders, this makes us reluctant to give much of it.  But we’re missing a wonderful opportunity to help someone grow and to become more every time we avoid calling out a legitimate performance limitation.

It’s been my personal experience that leaders who identified my shortcomings did me an enormous favor.  Like you and most human beings alive, I’m a sensitive person who winces when my work is less favorably judged.  I honestly can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed hearing my boss tell me I could do better.  But knowing where to give one’s attention is the fastest route to self-improvement and mastery.

When my son was a high school freshman, he had an important paper to write – one which would have great weight in his final class grade.  After taking his first stab at the report, he asked me to review it for him.   It wasn’t good enough to submit and I told him directly.  But I also assured him I would help him write the best paper of his life if he would let me coach him.

It might surprise you that he re-worked that paper at least a dozen times before he turned it in.  Yes, he was exasperated by all the additional work, and I’m most certain he believed in the moment that I was setting the bar way too high.

But when he got the paper back, he learned the truth.  His teacher gave him an “A” and specifically told him that his quality of work wasn’t just what she expected, but also required in order to excel.  He learned a valuable lesson about life.

Here’s what I admire about Howard Stern and what I hope you’ll take away from all this.  Once he determined the young singer’s performance wasn’t yet at the level it needed to be, he chose to be very direct and honest.  But by demonstrating that he genuinely cared about the boy and his feelings, he left the kid’s spirit in tact.   Consequently, don’t be surprised to see this little guy back on the show next year – singing better than ever.    And he’ll have Howard Stern of all people to thank.

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Handwritten Notes Drive Uncommon Performance

Posted by on Jan 4, 2012 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

Fountain Pen and A Handwritten NoteOn my most recent birthday, I got a call from a former employee, Lucas.

Now a very successful bank manager, Lucas was a brand-new teller when I first met him fifteen years ago in my role as Regional Manager.  After being seriously injured in a helicopter crash, he’d been forced to leave the Marine Corps to find an entirely new career.

With no banking experience, he was starting over from square one.

In our earliest conversation, Lucas told me he already was dreaming of becoming a branch manager and hoped to make that progression quickly.  Knowing the learning curve ahead of him was steep for these aspirations, I advised him to master every assignment he was given and to pursue excellence all along the way.

Based upon feedback I subsequently received from his different supervisors, it was clear Lucas took my advice to heart.  Quite consistently, I heard he was extremely hard working, committed to learning and contributing at exceptional levels.

Occasionally when Lucas earned a step up the ladder or helped his branch achieve an important goal, I sent him a handwritten note in acknowledgement.  Very briefly, I expressed my congratulations and appreciation — and encouraged him to stay the course with respect to his desire to become a manager.

Even though it had been over seven years since Lucas and I last worked together, during my birthday chat he surprised me by mentioning these very same notes!

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Lead With Care And Never With Fear

Posted by on Dec 18, 2011 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

Dr. Mimi Guarneri

Dr. Mimi Guarneri

When I interviewed Dr. Mimi Guarneri for Lead From The Heart, I asked if there were physiological reasons for why people who felt more cared for in the workplace were more productive.  She responded without hesitation. 

“There are only two human emotions, love and fear,” she told me. “Ultimately, you want your default mechanism to be love.  But we have to really work on having love as our default mechanism.  It’s very easy for us to give love to a puppy, our grandbaby and our kids.  But it’s very hard in the workplace.”

“What leaders need to know is that there are many incentives for choosing love over fear,” she said.  “A natural reason is that fear is a negative emotion which frequently releases stress hormones – adrenaline, aldosterone and cortisol – all which make us sick.”

As a real life example of how fear can wield lethal power, Dr. Guarneri related the story of one of her patients, a very wealthy man whose cancer had been in remission.

“When the financial crisis hit, he was, of course, affected and went through a very, very stressful period of time – a period mostly marked by fear.  And his cancer came back.”  Looking for some ideas as to what may have resuscitated his illness, Dr. Guarneri asked her patient “what’s different in your life today?”

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