Have you ever said someone “has a good heart?” For one who leads, we understand that to mean that they are kind, generous, and highly principled. Empathetic, even.
We all fall short, of course, but there are many who work hard at improving their character by exercising kindness, loyalty, honesty, and other such value-based attributes.
It would make sense that if you are going to choose to follow someone, that you expect them to be a person of character, a kind person, a person with a “good heart.” I would suggest that in most cases, it is one of the very first things you assess about someone you might choose to follow.
Listening to your Heart
When you listen to your heart, what do you hear? You might consider it your conscience, or the spirit, or other transcendental aspect of your existence. Regardless, kindness is universal.
In Sustained Leadership WBS I address the idea of developing your values by listening to your heart.
1.2.1 Values (Heart)
WBS Dictionary: Your values reflect what is in your heart. Too often people are not honest with themselves and very often this is not by any conscious intent. They have simply fallen into a comfort zone from which they have not considered extracting themselves. Your values govern your actions, so a hard look at your actions and reactions will provide a broad window on your values. When a person exhibits sustained leadership values it can be seen that these values are centered outside of their selfish interests. They are focused on others, not on themselves. They reflect no self-serving or self-deceiving (188.8.131.52) traits. They are honest (1.1) with themselves and others. And they incorporate those values into their mission (See 4.2.1.)
Humility is Necessary
Within section 1.3.3 Humility, there is a subsection that speaks to assessing yourself honestly. Do you have anger issues? Are you frequently depressed? Are you frustrated that you cannot deal with some people and take that frustration out on someone else?
An honest assessment might be revealing. Perhaps too revealing. Looking at yourself with a microscope will only highlight the flaws you know exist and who wants to wallow in that?
Yet, you need a deep self-assessment. We all do. It requires complete honesty with yourself and, if it is to have any effect, a commitment to seeking out these flaws and correcting them. The heart is a muscle and like any muscle, it can be strengthened with exercise. What do you do on a daily basis to exercise your heart? Do you practice random acts of kindness? Do you work to develop your sense of empathy? Do you express compassion at appropriate times?
Health experts say that such acts lower blood pressure, much like petting an animal does. The kindness you do has a boomerang effect.
Make a list of things you have done out of kindness. If you can’t think of any, don’t despair. What COULD you do out of kindness? You have three resources to apply – your time, your talent, and your treasure.
Too often people say, “Well, I’ve given to charity.” Or perhaps, “I gave all those outgrown clothes to goodwill.” Yes, those are nice things to do. They are very minimal in the grand scheme of kindness. What bold thing might you do to enhance your kindness?
Here are some suggestions:
- Commit to affirming ten people every day. It might be online. It might be by a phone call. It might be people you pass on the street. Say something kind. Note a recent accomplishment. Be aware of what they are engaged in doing and ask about progress.
- Set up a blood drive on your street, or community, or service club, or church.
- Sponsor a fundraiser for a local group. Many kids need better computer equipment to access their online classes.
- Teach at a senior center. Get the residents on Facebook so they can talk to grandkids. Teach them how to text on their phone. It might be strange to you, but to them, IPhones are very new inventions.
- Put together a team of kids to go cut the grass of an elderly neighbor. Or paint their house. Or walk their dog. Or get them groceries. Or read to them.
- Sign up to collect trash along a highway. Or a park. Or your own street.
- Start a prayer group or bible study at your church.
- Support a toys-for-tots program.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen on a day OTHER THAN Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Consider your talent and put it to use helping others – to play an instrument, to study math, to set up a computer, to teach the use of email.
What is the Cost?
None of these involve money. They make use of your time and talent. These acts of kindness are exercise for your heart. They prepare you to be a better leader.
Keeping Your Balance
A closing note on balance. Two points. You already have your time, talent, and treasure allocated. You will have to free up some of it to do any of the things suggested above.
Don’t get yourself unbalanced. This might come from being neglectful of your current responsibilities. If you try, however, you can find some time wasters that can be eliminated. Start slowly. Take a minute to tell ten people how much you appreciate them. Easy.
Avoiding Your Traps
Second, much of the heart exercises described here are straight from the emotions. It reflects how you feel. Do not be an absorptive empath. Do not make other peoples’ problems your own when you cannot bear it. Sometimes you need to back off on your empathy.
Your actions can become too heartfelt and emotionally draining. It is appropriate to be sensitive to the feelings of others, but not to the point that, as a leader, you fail to have the much-needed crucial conversations, express tough love, or offer truly constructive criticism. These hesitancies are often selfish.
Just a caution not to overdo it and hurt yourself. Then again, unless you push on those limits, how will you know where they are?
This material is derived from the book Sustained Leadership WBS and is found in section 1.2.1 Values. Buy the book here. eBook: http://geni.us/SustainedLeadershipE; Print: http://geni.us/SustainedLeadershipP
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