By Michael Gunther

When I entered the workforce after college, at Procter & Gamble, the culture was such that you had to maintain a separation of your work life and your personal life. You couldn’t be authentic at work since it was supposed to be “all business”. As tough decisions are made at work, we have all probably heard statements like: “it is just business” or “this is a business decision not a people decision” or “it is black and white, no emotion should be part of the decision”. It seemed individuals that showed emotion, or the “softer” management skills, were perceived as weak or less effective. It was as if you had to leave your personhood at the door. No wonder employees often mistrust leaders who exhibit these attitudes – there is no authenticity to their leadership.

As many of you may know, I am currently pursuing my PhD in Organization Development at Fielding Graduate University. One interesting aspect of this program thus far is the ‘humanness’ that is provided in the relationships with the faculty and students. The faculty actually see us as their colleagues in our learning journey. They encourage us to be ourselves, the good and bad, while supporting us in owning the responsibilities of our outcomes and relationships. This may not sound like a rocket science approach to building an effective learning environment, but it is definitely a non-traditional method compared to my other academic experiences.

Through this process, I have begun to gain interest in the authenticity and transparency of leaders within the workplace. I have discovered this is not a new concept, but a concept that has been gaining more momentum as a legitimate way of being in the work environment. In fact, one of the faculty members, Dr. Michael Manning, is participating in a research project funded by Inc. Magazine, focusing on organizations leading through values and the positive return on investment an entity can obtain. (Check it out at If you also happen to browse a local bookstore or Amazon online, you may be surprised on the number of books related to bringing your soul or heart to the workplace.

I wonder if these initiatives are being fueled because at the heart (no pun intended) and strength of every business, are the successes of relationships, both internally and externally. Being relationship centered as a business seems like common sense, but is often not a priority for many leaders or organizations. Relationship centered management requires leaders to be real with themselves and to truly care about those they lead. It requires a higher level of authenticity, transparency, and connectedness than most people are willing to express.

Bottom Line

How relationship centered are you? How would your employees rate you as relationship centered manager? I encourage you to identify all the stakeholders within your realm of influence and see if there are actions you can take to bring your ‘heart’ into the workplace and see what transpires. You may be surprised how those individuals may be willing to assist you in achieving new heights and creating a relationship centered environment.

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