Dan Doty has a backstory that makes you think, “This dude better have a beard.” Fortunately, he does, along with an open grin and an earnestness not really in fashion among today’s man. And that’s the whole point. He’s a former wilderness guide and producer/director of the hunting show MeatEater on the Sportsman Channel, so you can’t help thinking that Dan should be a man’s man: stoic, unemotional, prone to solving problems by breaking out the cordless power tools.
But to Dan, that perception is the problem. So when his son Duke was born, he decided to address what he saw as an epidemic of pain, isolation, and anger in the American male. He started Evryman, a community which offers coaching and wilderness retreats that promise to “connect men more deeply to their loved ones, their life’s work, and themselves.” Evryman retreats are intense affairs, with men often sharing fears, feelings and stories that they’ve never shared with anyone…including their spouses. Tears and hugs abound.
That might not seem like a revolutionary idea, but Evryman has connected with the press and the public in a big way. There’s been a feature in Men’s Health, an appearance on the Today Show, and coverage on CNBC. Dan’s got a successful podcast and has given a TED talk. Why all the fuss? I know. You see, Dan’s doing what I’ve been preaching to leaders at Motto, our branding and digital agency, for 15 years: he’s leading with his heart.
The most effective leaders I work with are so-called “heart-centric” leaders. That is, they build their teams and their organizations around what they care deeply about. They’re vulnerable and passionate. They encourage everyone to express their true selves and steer their organizations based on what’s right, not just what’s profitable. Their people are engaged and invested, not just working for a paycheck or the weekend.
The irony of heart-centric leadership is that, in a time when technology has made it easy to distance ourselves from each other, it strikes a chord in us. We seem to need healthy, raw emotion and honest, human contact more than ever, and we respect those who can bring it out in others. The quick success of Evryman is proof.
How can you tap into the same heart-centric energy that Dan Doty and other leaders use to build brands infused with soul? Well, you can’t–not if that’s not who you are. Faux heart is worse than no heart. If you’re not someone who’s comfortable sharing your feelings or being vulnerable, don’t fake it.
However, if you’d love to infuse your organization with a deep sense of values and emotional connection, there are some sound principles you can follow:
If you’re going to encourage your people to share their feelings and express their passions, you’d better be the first one to make that leap. Leaders lead by example, and when you display the courage to be vulnerable, you make it safe for everyone.
Set the rules, then back away.
It’s on you to create the ground rules for a heart-centric culture. What’s appropriate? What’s not appropriate? Will the culture revolve around casual get-togethers and sweet emails, or something more intense like Evryman-style retreats? Create the rulebook, then step back and let your people be themselves.
Declare your values and lead with them.
If you’re going to put values above all, people need to know what your values are. Be clear about them. Make them the fulcrum of every corporate decision and communication. Build your brand around them. Most of all, when you have to choose between your stated values and a shortcut, be ready to follow what you value.