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Heart-Centered Leadership
Get Out of the Fishbowl!
By Susan Steinbrecher -  author, business consultant, leadership expert, speaker, CEO of Steinbrecher And Associates, Inc.

In our business culture, and society in general, the image or metaphor of the heart is often associated with yielding, kindness – or perhaps weakness. Yet, I’d like to remind you that the heart is also strong and powerful, as well as the driving force of life. I believe that an unbalanced view or connection with the heart underlies at least some of the current crisis in business ethics.

Businesses today must understand that obtaining a profit at all costs is extremely shortsighted. Instead, an organization needs to focus on the triple bottom line. People, Planet, Profits.

Although this may be a fairly radical departure from the usual emphasis on revenue versus expenditures, business owners and leaders are apt to “lose their soul” if they are caught in the trap of strictly focusing on profits. This short-range strategy works at the expense of the employees and/or the customers.

Leaders who show genuine care for their employees and their customers embrace the notion that their ability to act with truthfulness and integrity is more important than achieving success – although ironically, the leaders that have the vision and inspiration to practice this type of heart-centered leadership almost always achieve success far beyond even their own lofty expectations.

A leader who operates from a place of integrity understands the impact that they have on others.

We often equate the role of a leader in an organization or business to that of a fish in a fishbowl. The leader swims around minding their own business and doing what they need to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the world views them through the perfectly transparent fishbowl.

The culture of any organization is a direct reflection of its leaders. Indeed, as a leader in the proverbial fishbowl, your actions are magnified or possibly blown out of proportion. Your associates rarely see things from your perspective. In my book
Heart Centered Leadership: An Invitation to Lead From the Inside Out we discuss one of the key principles, “Know Your Impact”, which is the ability to see things from the perspective of your employees. Every day, leaders are subject to the “fishbowl effect” – which is a very challenging position to be in.

The heart-centered leader doesn’t stay in the bowl. Instead, he or she gets out a lot, mingles with employees, and studies the day-to-day operations and acts upon the situations affecting their employees and their customers. Ultimately, “knowing your impact” has to do with your willingness to put your power needs aside for the sake of having genuine influence on others. When you are caught up in having things your way – when you feel that you can’t let go – it is probably a signal that you do not understand the impact that your actions have on those around you. Leaders must make a fundamental decision to get out of the fishbowl, act in accord with deeply held values, practice what they preach and have the foresight to think through the consequences of their actions.

To be a Heart-Centered Leader, ask yourself these questions at the end of each day:

1. Did I show genuine appreciation for all that my associates did today? If so, how?

2. Did I consider the consequences of my actions including my words-prior to taking the actions? Did I choose wisely? If not, what got in my way?

3. Did I show genuine care and concern for others today? If so, how?

4. Did I listen well to others before speaking?

5. Did I display enthusiasm and spirit?

6. Did I ask for other people’s ideas today? Did I genuinely consider them, particularly if they were very different from my own?

7. Did I act with absolute integrity today? Why or why not?

Remember… In this era of rapid change, we are experiencing a shift to increased transparency – as employees and customers alike demand truth and honesty from their leaders and businesses.

Leaders and managers must learn how to lead with their heart – not just their head – and connect with the emotional needs of employees. This is an essential skill for managers to master in order to successfully motivate employees through times of adversity and promote productivity while fostering the need for creativity, meaning and fulfillment.

Effective business leaders who have developed these valuable heart-centered attributes understand that people have the need to be valued, respected, listened to and involved. Acknowledging and honoring the “human element” will arm heart-centered leaders of the future with the wisdom and capacity to positively transform any organization and run extremely successful and profitable businesses.

About the Author: Susan Steinbrecher, business consultant, leadership expert and speaker, is CEO of Steinbrecher And Associates, Inc., a management-consulting firm. She is the author of the Amazon best-seller, KENSHO: A Modern Awakening, Instigating Change in an Era of Global Renewal, as well as the co-author of several leadership and business books including Heart Centered Leadership: An Invitation to Lead From the Inside Out and Roadmap to Success. Visit for more information. Twitter: