Unlock the Power of Heart-Based Character Strengths in Leadership

May 4, 2023

by Pam Boney


How to retain your heart strengths, even while driving performance. 

Should I be a results-driven leader or a heart-based leader? Should I make the tough call or be loyal to my colleagues who have become friends over time? These are examples of polarizing questions that create inner conflict in leaders daily. 

But what if it’s not an either/or decision? 

What if you can drive performance AND be a leader who cares about people? One does not preclude the other if you want to lead well, especially during tough times

Yes, there are times when the business's health must precede what each individual in your organization would prefer. Layoffs are a great example of one of the most challenging decisions a leader ever has to make. In such times, the good of the many and the sustainability of the business entity must be prioritized. And, yes, when this occurs, individual lives are impacted. But it doesn’t mean you, as the leader, are compassionless. Quite the contrary, most great leaders feel the loss personally and struggle to live with the necessity to make grave decisions that impact human lives. Especially those they have worked beside for years and come to know as human beings with families. They do what they must to ensure healthy financial results and kindly express their emotions to those impacted by their decisions. The kind of leader you are matters during good times. But it matters even more during economic stress. 

Who You Are During Tough Times Reveals Your Agility. 

Generative leadership demands more than technical expertise in today's post-pandemic and fractured business economy. Now more than ever, to be an effective leader, one must have a strong skillset in emotional intelligence and soft skills. These critical skills enable leaders to connect authentically with team members, build stronger relationships, and ultimately drive organizational success. This pillar article will uncover key concepts in cultivating emotional intelligence and demonstrating the leadership attributes of Humanity: The Meta Strengths of Heart (specifically Empathy, Trust, and Likability) and provide practical insights and strategies for transforming yourself into a more impactful and inspiring leader. So get ready to unlock your full leadership potential in an era where your most mature soft skills are needed more than ever. 


The Role of Self-Awareness in Developing Emotional Intelligence

As leaders, we often focus on our technical expertise and hard skills to execute performance more swiftly. While these are undoubtedly important, they are not the only qualities that make for effective leadership. At Tilt365, we have scientific evidence that four discrete categories of character strengths lead to exceptional leadership that continuously produces innovation. The important one for social success lies in developing and leveraging what we call Humanity: The Meta Strengths of Heart.

Heart-based strengths are critical for effective leadership. This category of strengths refers to the extent to which a person embodies qualities such as empathy, trust, compassion, humility, likability, and authenticity. These attributes are essential for building solid relationships with others, fostering trust and loyalty, and creating a positive workplace culture. What we say and do as leaders lingers in the minds of our team long after we’ve spoken and continue to influence how they think about the business and its future. In addition, these relationship skills are necessary for leaders to connect with their team members and build a cohesive and productive work environment. Developing Humanity attributes and strengths-based leadership should be a priority for any aspiring leader.

The meta-strengths of Humanity are often called Emotional Intelligence (EI), a popular term in recent leadership literature. What EI means is the ability to recognize and regulate our emotions as well as understand and influence the feelings of others. Research has shown that leaders with high levels of EI are more effective at managing their teams, building relationships, and driving results.

So, why is it essential to develop heart strengths as a leader? First and foremost, these qualities help to create a sense of psychological safety in the workplace. When employees feel that their leaders are empathetic, authentic, and caring, they are more likely to feel comfortable speaking up, sharing their ideas, and taking risks. It tells them that you understand they are human beings with lives outside of work. This mutually respectful interaction, in turn, can lead to more significant innovation and creativity within the organization.

Additionally, leaders with Humanity Strengths and Emotional Intelligence are better equipped to handle challenging situations such as conflict, change, and crisis. They can manage their emotions and respond in a thoughtful, empathetic manner to others, which can help to de-escalate tense situations and build trust with team members.

Beyond the critical points made above, being in touch with Humanity, and more specifically, the focus on relationships, has a crucial impact on the general happiness and well-being of those around you at work. In Robert Waldinger’s book ‘The Good Life and How to Live It’, which is based on the world's longest study on happiness, he shares some key findings:

  • Relationships are crucial, but it is more about the quality (closeness and support) than the quantity that makes the difference.

  • Developing and maintaining relationships takes time and needs to be constantly nurtured.

  • People with deeper relationships don’t spend more time together, but they are vulnerable and authentic with each other, sharing insecurities and struggles that foster empathy and understanding regarding their humanness. 

  • Experiences that will create lasting memories and strengthen relationships make people happier than material possessions, fame, or success. 

  • Practicing gratitude, ideally daily, is another key element of happiness.

It’s easy to see from this list that team-building exercises and retreat time make a difference in the quality of relationships on a team. And the quality of relationships can determine how willing they are to share their ideas and discretionary effort. 

How to Build Humanity: The Meta Strengths of Heart

It’s easy to see that excellent leadership requires a unique combination of both technical expertise or skills and emotional intelligence. It’s also commonly accepted that Emotional Intelligence and Humanity strengths are not innate qualities that are either present or absent in individuals. Instead, they are skills that can be developed and strengthened through deliberate practice and self-awareness. By building these qualities, leaders can unlock their full potential, create a positive workplace culture, and drive lasting success for their organizations.

One powerful way to build productive relationships is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to focus on the present moment without judgment and cultivate self-awareness, leading to reduced stress. When leaders become more mindful, they can connect with their emotions and others, leading to empathetic responses.

Active listening is another crucial strategy for building Emotional Intelligence and Humanity Strengths. Leaders can demonstrate empathy and build trust with their team members by paying attention without interrupting or judging others. This can lead to better collaboration, engagement, and positive workplace culture.

Leaders should also seek feedback regularly to gain insights into their strengths and areas for growth. When leaders are open to constructive criticism, it shows a willingness to learn and grow, fostering a positive environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

Finally, taking care of one's well-being is vital for effective leadership. Prioritizing self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones can help build resilience, reduce stress, and shape a positive mindset, leading to better decision-making and stronger relationships with team members.

As you embark on the leadership journey, it is essential to understand that it is not a destination but a continuous process. Developing Emotional Intelligence and Humanity Strengths requires constant effort and dedication. Practicing mindfulness, active listening, seeking feedback, and prioritizing your well-being are vital strategies to help leaders build a strong foundation for success. Leaders can inspire their team members to do the same and create a positive workplace culture by cultivating self-awareness, empathy, and resilience.  

Performance Plus Humanity: The Ultimate Formula for Success

Leadership is often viewed as a combination of skills and traits that can be developed over time but being well-rounded as a human being is the ultimate game changer, especially during tough times. When focusing on performance becomes necessary, it’s easy to be tempted to lean too far toward results and forget that we can also be respectful human beings. Indeed, those who maintain composure when times are hard are the leaders who inspire greatness in their teams. And this leads to more remarkable performance. 

The beginning of this article provided an in-depth explanation of Emotional Intelligence, which involves recognizing and understanding one's emotions and those of others and using that information to regulate one's own emotions and positively influence the emotions of others. Humanity is a related concept that refers to the degree to which an individual embodies qualities such as empathy, compassion, humility, and authenticity. Together, these qualities can make a significant difference in effective leadership no matter what happens in the external world. 

Leaders who exhibit Humanity Strengths and Emotional Intelligence are better able to understand the needs and motivations of their team members. They can communicate effectively and build stronger relationships with their team members, increasing trust, collaboration, and productivity.

Let's face it, a workplace without diversity and inclusion is like a sandwich without any filling - it's just plain dull. That's why leaders who prioritize empathy and authenticity are essential to creating a workplace culture that values and celebrates differences. By encouraging open communication and embracing diverse perspectives, leaders can foster a more dynamic and creative environment better equipped to solve complex problems and adapt to change.

But here's the cherry on top - the benefits of Humanity Strengths of Heart and EI don't stop at a more fun and innovative workplace. Research has shown that companies emphasizing EI and positive leadership see higher employee engagement, greater customer satisfaction, and better financial performance. By prioritizing the development of these qualities in themselves and their team members, leaders can create a workplace culture that values the well-being and success of all members.

So, let's all strive to be that flavorful filling in the workplace sandwich. By developing our Humanity Strengths and Emotional Intelligence, we can create a workplace culture that is more enjoyable and successful.


The key to effective leadership and organizational success includes developing Emotional Intelligence and Humanity Strengths. Leaders prioritizing these qualities can create a positive and productive workplace culture, build stronger relationships with team members, and drive innovation and creativity. Remember, developing these qualities is an ongoing process, requiring deliberate effort, feedback, and continuous learning. As leaders, we are responsible for creating a culture of psychological safety that values empathy, authenticity, and respect for diversity.