Take Heart! New Types of Leaders Are Emerging

By Derick Carter, an HBI Board Member and heart-centered trainer, coach, and leadership consultant who guides organizations, communities, and current and emerging leaders to create social and organizational change, enhance well-being, and build togetherness.

Image by Mohamed Hassan
New LeadersHIP STYLES for a Changing World

New ways of working together previously utilized by only a small percentage of the workforce entered the mainstream during the pandemic. Working remotely, collaboratively, and across different continents and organizations is now the norm for many. In order to thrive and overcome the world’s present challenges of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), our present current work model requires a new set of skills and work habits. These new competencies include cultural awareness, flexibility, creating healthier and more effective work/life boundaries, and an openness to lean into the unknown.

Relaxing and Letting Go into the Flow of Change

Embracing these new skills requires a “letting go” of old work patterns, habits, and structures including organizational traditions that were normalized during the corporate era such as fixed work times, predictable tasks, inflexible deadlines, and the dictation of specific actions. Today’s vastly different working conditions necessitate embracing complexity, uncertainty, and working in emergence. Detailed plans and deliberate strategies have evolved into more general pathways urging workers to adapt, let go, and follow the flow of change.


Emergent leadership is an organic organizational approach to leadership where leaders are identified by those around them rather than selected by a corporate hierarchy. The pandemic’s enormous waves of change highlighted the vital need and opportunity for new types of leaders and management models. Social leaders and change agents are two of these emerging leadership types.

Image by Mohamed Hassan

Building Trust – Social Leaders

During the pandemic, when all sense of normalcy went out the window, many people turned to social leaders for support, a listening ear, stability, help, and more. Social leaders are your everyday people, taking on a variety of forms including nurses, neighbors, teachers, coaches, front-line workers, and parents.

  • Gifts: Within organizations, social leaders help an organization to thrive by connecting the power of the community to the daily challenges of work. The foundation of social leadership is humility, fairness, kindness, and above all trust. But this is no soft form of power—it is an earned power, and because of that it carries great weight.
  • Challenges: By nature, social leaders are very caring and sensitive and often overextend themselves in the name of helping and being of service to others. They are at a substantial risk of burnout, compassion fatigue, and taking on the worries, burdens, and problems of those they care for. Finding sustainable ways to share their care and gifts with others that are also supportive of their own health and well-being is key for social leaders to thrive in their roles.

Sowing the Seeds of Change – Change Agents

Change agents are adept at planting seeds and creating fertile ground for change. Traditionally, the workplace hasn’t recognized them as leaders but instead as group influencers through their suggestions, conversations, and ideas.

  • Gifts: More than ever, the role of a change agent has never been more important and its absence more costly. Five key qualities of change agents are: 1) flexibility, 2) diversified knowledge, 3) prioritization, 4) accountability and responsibility, and 5) effective listening skills.
  • Challenges: To implement their vision, sometimes it’s necessary for a change agent to move from an influencer role to more of a direct leadership role. This can create a lot of internal resistance and hesitancy for a variety of reasons including concern of becoming assimilated into the very system they are trying to change; dealing with bureaucracy, politics, and administrative work; concern over becoming distanced from the very people they wish to support with the change; and less maneuverability and ability to make change by being limited by position/role.
No Matter What Your Leadership Style Is, Do It with Heart!
Image by MetsikGarden

Heart-centered leaders interact from a feeling state of peace, calmness, happiness, and gratitude. Whether you are a social leader or change agent, learning to lead from the heart inspires others to feel that change is possible. It also encourages loyalty and builds powerful relationships built on kindness, caring and respect.

Simply put, heart-centered leadership is based on love. When you love your team, they love you back! This way of leading (and living!) is contagious. When people feel that you not only have their best interests but the best interests of everyone involved at heart (even those you can’t see or don’t know), there is a natural trust that grows and expands, and this creates a fertile ground for change that can lead to community, self-organizing, and innovation. Heart-centered leaders genuinely want what is best for the whole and naturally create collaborative environments where everyone can lead from their gifts and strengths.

By Its Very Nature, Tension Creates Transformational Opportunities

The tension created by individual, group, and organizational uncertainty provides a huge opportunity for transformation. When emerging leaders and change agents are willing to embody change, they naturally inspire those around them. The opportunity for healing, collective wisdom, and joint action can emerge through deep listening, sharing, and being in relational co-creative spaces with others who on similar journeys but hold different perspectives.

Now that the pandemic’s immediate threat has subsided, organizations are attempting to pull many emerging leaders back into the confines of traditional structures, which may be changing slower than conditions require. As a result, these types of leaders may feel frustrated and trapped yet bursting with energy and ideas to bring their vision into a world yearning for new ways of working together. 

As a society we have everything we need to solve our global challenges. The question is do we have enough emerging leaders who can lead from the heart to co-create a new world?

Learn more about our spiritual heart and heart-centered leadership training.