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A Leadership Lesson from the CEO of the Red Cross

A microphone on a microphone stand.

If you’re trying to grow as a leader in any sector, there is no shortage of resources out there to help you tackle time management, people management, project management and… other forms of management. However, while these skills are important for leaders of all stripes, it’s easy to miss out on the passion and purpose that compelled you to become a leader in the first place, and the importance of sharing your organization’s vision for change.

Recently on Harvard Business Review, Gail McGovern, CEO of the Red Cross, shared the lessons she’s learned about leadership throughout her career. She didn’t list tips and tricks that helped her manage change at the enormous nonprofit; rather she shared a powerful moment when she realized she would have to be vulnerable and touch people’s hearts:

"At the make-or-break meeting to put the final plan in front of the chapters, I found myself delivering a deeply emotional talk. I pointed to recent disasters, described how local chapters had responded, and implored the group to save the Red Cross. Earlier in my career, I would have considered that kind of speech sappy. But in that room I saw people’s skepticism change to belief. Did my leadership team and I show any special rhetorical brilliance? No—we proved we’d been listening, and our amazing Red Crossers, who care so deeply about our humanitarian mission, were willing to accept some difficult changes to save this American treasure…Your job as a leader is to tap into the power of that higher purpose—and you can’t do it by retreating to the analytical. If you want to lead, have the courage to do it from the heart."

Read the rest of her article here.

Another key part of her leadership lesson is the importance of listening. It’s impossible to lead if you aren’t in touch with those who have put faith in your leadership.

by Allison Jones

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