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Leading from Within: The Journey from Technical Expert to Heart-Centred Leader

This month has been an exciting one in my business. David Wynn and I launched Heart-Centred Leaders, a purpose-driven insight-led coaching membership community for leaders. David and I are both certified transformational coaches from slightly different career backgrounds, so we bring a rich combination of perspective and skills to Heart-Centred Leaders. I’ll let David tell you his own story so, in this article, I’ll talk briefly about my career journey and what’s led me to co-found Heart-Centred Leaders.

What I’ve Learned About Leadership

My career started in engineering roles and moved into HR leadership roles while at Mars. My first leadership role was actually in manufacturing, as a young 22-year old. Mars helped us with the practical stuff like how to manage people, the appraisal process and what the disciplinary steps were. 

But there was little about how to be as a leader and how to motivate and engage your team. What I’ve learned over years is that how your lead is as important, if not more important, than the practical for engaging teams. Good leadership drives how inspired a team feels to follow them.

From a leadership perspective, I’ve mostly been self taught. I watched and tried to emulate leaders who inspired me. I also learned from others, who were less motivating how not to do it!

What Makes a Good Leader?

At times, you find a leader that’s really inspiring; they make you want to follow them and go above and beyond for them. Yet, it can be difficult to pinpoint what it is about that leader makes them so inspiring.

As someone new to leadership, you might aspire to be that type of inspiring leader but not having the skills to be able to do it can be frustrating. This notion resonates in some of the interviews that I carried out as part of creating Heart-Centred Leaders.

One interviewee, a Programme Director for a large global technology company reflected that on becoming a leader, he wanted to emulate another that he worked with who he found inspiring, but she seemed to have “some kind of unknown magic!”

Nobody wants to come to work and be a bad leader. Often, we just don’t know how to be a great leader.

What are Heart-Centred Leaders?

Being a heart-centred leader goes beyond skillset i.e. your experience and what you do. It also goes beyond mindset, which is how you think such as your framework for decision-making or whether lean towards logic and data, new ideas or structure and plans, for example.

What it comes to is something I’ve started referring to as “heart-set”. Your why. This is about your values and purpose. If you are a heart-centred leader this will be about your vulnerability and empathy. Compassion, kindness and gratitude. These are things that we don’t associate with leaders, at least, not a traditional leader.

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The typical approach to leadership tends to be focused on results and the bottom line. We think about command-and-control where people get things done through fear rather than through creating an environment where people want to do their best.

When people feel that you care about them, they are inspired and motivate. That’s a theme that’s come through from our interviews.

Why Is There Such a Transition From Technical Expert to Leader?

I moved from a technical role to leadership and I work with many leaders going through the same transition. When I say, technical expert, I don’t just mean engineers and scientists. I mean anyone who has is in a highly skilled job.

So, you might also think about lawyers, accountants and marketers. These people are very good at what they do, it’s their area of expertise. But they may never really have had a focus on their leadership development. It could be that they’ve not made the time to understand what great leadership is and they may well have not had any particularly good role models.

If you’re one of these people, it could feel like you’ve been left to sink or swim. If it’s your own business that you’re running, it could be that you’re floundering and don’t know what to do. You deal with each situation as it comes without thinking about how you want to be as a leader.

What are the Qualities of a Heart-Centred Leader?

Certainly, for me, it’s taken a long time to understand my values as a leader. Many qualities of a good leader are things that we don’t traditionally associate with leadership e.g. vulnerability, kindness, trust.

If we keep that heart-set, we are:

  1. Open to failure, because failure is all about learning and growing.
  2. More likely to admit our own mistakes, thus being vulnerable.
  3. More interested and curious about our team such that they feel cared for.
  4. Always assume positive intent among our team, giving people the benefit of the doubt.

What is the Heart-Centred Leaders Programme?

Back in 2019, David Wynn and I had a conversation in the lovely Birdhouse in Banchory, Aberdeenshire. We realised that our goals for what we wanted to do for leaders were well-aligned. David asked if I’d consider working with him on the project. Over the weeks, our ideas have evolved a bit due to the onset of COVID-19 but in essence, Heart-Centred Leaders is the outcome of that.

We conducted research with leaders and what we heard from leaders is that leadership is a really lonely place. Often, they didn’t have someone to bounce ideas off or to share challenges that you’re having. Leaders didn’t have people to learn from, yet, they had a desire to connect with other leaders within and out with their industry.

There are networking events but there isn’t enough on how to grow as a leader. To combat this, leaders will often have advisors or mentors. The gap is still the lack of opportunity for great coaching and to explore ideas themselves.

Leaders want to draw on the expertise and experience of other leaders in their community. That’s what we want to do with Heart-Centred Leaders. We want to create a space where leaders can connect with other leaders.

How can you get involved with Heart-Centred Leaders?

Therefore, our mission is to create and nurture a community of heart-centred leaders who are committed to personal and professional growth for themselves and for the benefit of all those they seek to influence.

Our plan is to work with a group of 15 founding members, though our aspirations go much far than that.

  • Weekly group coaching call
  • Monthly 1-to-1 coaching call
  • Online community for sharing and learning

David and I would love you to check out the website and pass it to others that you think might benefit from it. Here’s the link here https://heartcentredleaders.co/

We’d love you to join our vision, which is to inspire a generation of heart-centred humans.

If you’d like a chat, contact myself (gillian@heartcentredleaders.co) or David (david@heartcentredleaders.co) and we’ll be in touch.

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