Debra Ann Cruz, CEAP, CEC, LPC
Develop Your Strengths & Skills to Succeed
These are trying times for leaders.

Pandemics, government and economic changes, disruptions to supply chains, and shifts in how and where we work have thrown traditional systems for managing human capital into chaos. Assessing the bottom line, delivering profits, and maximizing performance have shifted under the stress of massive globalization, political challenges, and changes in resource availability. Other changes are at play, too. The way we view “work” as our contribution to the world, not merely a “job” or a “paycheck,” shifted significantly.

In this new age of rising self-awareness, top-down leadership systems, heavy on the infrastructure of centralized in-office communication and on-site supervision, hold less sway over the workforce. Employees looking to integrate their “work” with a larger sense of identity and purpose… and successful leaders will also shift their approaches.

As I call them, these leaders—diamond heart leaders—understand that harnessing a team’s productivity and creativity means speaking their language and responding to their changing needs. Just as implementing new technologies streamlines business operations and kicks performance—and profits—into higher gear, embracing a new leadership mindset can do the same.

For a new generation of leaders, it’s time to work from the heart. It’s time to abandon leading from the top down and to embrace guiding from the inside out.

Heart-based Leadership isn’t “Woo-Woo.”

Using the phrases “heart-based” or “New Age” suggests a deep-dive into murky and controversial schools of thought that seem to be the antithesis to acceptable business practices. But boiled down to their essence, I believe embedded heart-centered, inside-out leadership.

For example, consider James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s leadership theories, as outlined in their 1987 book, The Leadership Challenge. Although their approach is multifaceted, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll focus on what they call “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership ®. Those practices are:

  1. Model the Way;
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision;
  3. Challenge the Process;
  4. Enable Others to Act;
  5. Encourage the Heart.

As illustrated by Kouzes and Posner’s work—work done more than 30 years ago— a heart-centered, inside-out approach is a tenet of leadership. It has to be. It is impossible to be the role model, visionary, or champion who challenges existing processes. Kickstarting others into action—without heart-based awareness, for one’s own inner needs and values, and then to the hearts of those whom we charged with directing toward our shared goals. Or, to put it differently, the shifting global consciousness is simply a recognition of principles we have always accepted to be crucial to maximizing human potential in any endeavor. We’re waking up that successful outcomes in the industry, finance, services, or anything else are near related to humans’ hearts involved. It’s not top-down, it’s inside out.

The best leaders—the diamond heart leaders—succeed because they have honed their inner understanding of themselves and their mission into something sparkling, shining, and unbreakable. Inspiring your team and your business into a more profitable future requires some inner work first. You must have confronted your fears, dealt with them, and banished (or managed) them. You must have put yourself under the pressure that makes diamonds model the self-confidence and clarity of a gemstone known for its brilliance and imperviousness. From that place of clarity, you can challenge assumptions and enable others to act for your organization’s good. Because your own heart is aligned, you have an inner well-spring of ideas and encouragement to offer others.

If that sounds too “woo-woo” for the discussion of business leadership, trust me it’s not. Since people are at the heart of the global shift of consciousness—away from hierarchy and into recognizing individuals’ joint efforts– corporations and businesses must follow suit to ensure their profitability in the days ahead. Leaders’ consciousness—and their ability to rise above status-quo thinking, use the momentum of changing attitudes, and embrace them—is the underlying skill that will drive success in the New Age.

How to work “Inside Out:” The Five-faceted diamond

Diamond heart leaders respond to those under their guidance, recognizing that your team’s overall profitability is tied not just to earnings but on a complex web of “inside” and “outside” needs. I call these needs the “five faceted diamond” and the diamond heart leader must be prepared to respond to each of them. The five-facets are certainty, challenge, significance, connection, and growth. As we discuss each of these facets, I challenge you to ask yourself new, heart-centered questions about what they trigger in you, as well as how you can implement a new, more conscious approach to each of them with your team.

  • Certainty. While the paycheck is the most prominent symbol of economic security, job stability, future opportunities, on-the-job safety, comfortable surroundings, transparent workflow processes and chains of command, etc. What does certainty mean to you? What makes you feel insecure? How can you use your feelings to take an open-hearted approach to the safety of those you lead? What questions do you need to ask to discover weaknesses in the level of certainty your employees enjoy?
  • Challenge and Variety. Significantly few employees will perform at their best when their job has become monotonous or rote. Challenge and variety allow employees to bring forth more of their best selves. What challenges you? How do you respond when challenged? When is a challenge overwhelming? Can you create new opportunities for variety and challenge based on your responses? What kinds of challenges will stimulate better performance and higher achievement for you and your team?
  • Significance. Every person needs to feel important, needed, and recognized for their work. But every person experiences that validation differently. What makes you feel significant and validated? What experiences have you had that made you feel undervalued? What steps can you take to validate your team? What conversations are necessary to discover what validates each team member?
  • Connection. The best outcomes come when the team feels connected, working in harmony toward a common goal. What makes you feel connected to others? What experiences created disconnect? What can you do to build a connection within your team? What obstacles stand in the way of that connection? What steps can you take to correct those obstacles?
  • Growth. When people stop growing, their performance atrophies and affect the ultimate goals of the organization. Are you growing? If so, what spurs growth for you? If not, why not, and how can you create your growth opportunities? Is your team still growing? If not, how can you inspire new opportunities? What new strategies can you implement for education or incentive that encourage growth?
  • Contribution. Your team needs to believe in the value of unified efforts toward a common goal. A sense of mission is critical to successful outcomes—and profitability. What is your mission? Can you state it in a sentence? How is it evident in your daily actions and choices? Does your team know the mission? Do they believe in it? Do you? How can you demonstrate the importance of their work and instill a sense of mission?

The difference between the old-style leadership and the shifting global consciousness of the present moment recognizes no comfortable “one-size fits all” answers to these questions. Previously, leaders might have attended a seminar or bought a book and taken away a tip or two to be applied unilaterally to every industry, every employee, and situation, but those days are gone.

The global shift in consciousness recognizes that to achieve results, we have to embrace every person’s uniqueness and delve deep to mine their inner diamond. It requires leaders to do the hard work of connection. It requires presence and patience. Leaders must work from the inside out— polishing clarity of purpose before taking any action in the outside world.

Like diamonds themselves, diamond heart leaders shine because they know themselves—and offer their light and wisdom to others. This inner work is at the heart of the global shift that maximizes success in the New Age. That understanding helps them lead in dynamic and fresh new ways in shifting worldwide consciousness and a rapidly changing world.

Debra Cruz

Debra Cruz

Debra Ann Cruz, C.E.A.P., C.E.C., L.P.C., is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional, a Certified Executive Coach, and a Licensed Professional Counselor, and author of the upcoming book THE S.W.E.E.T. Spot of Self-Esteem for Women of Color. You can learn more about her at