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Bringing Heart-Led Leadership into Student Affairs

Supporting the Profession New Professionals and Graduate Students
October 2, 2018 Patrick Bussiere

The impact leaders can have when they believe in others, when they see people for who they are and for what is in their hearts, and when they help every person strive to become something even greater than what they already are.” – Tommy Spaulding

A recent reading from Tommy Spaulding’s “The Heart Led Leader” explains how leading from one’s heart can positively impact change in organizations and life. The book describes the eighteen-inch journey from a person’s mind to their heart with each inch symbolizing a trait such as: encouragement, vulnerability, generosity, transparency and many more. Each inch is accompanied by a personal anecdote relating to the trait and how other leaders across the globe incorporated the style into their life. Heart Led Leadership greatly focuses on looking at the “who” of the person rather than the “what” as well as making others feel valued, appreciated, and welcomed.  These leaders ensure that employees have a sense of purpose and show them that what they are working for is something greater than the individual roles.

 Questions that are commonly asked when adapting the style:

  • Who am I?
  • Who do I serve and impact?
  • Who do you love?
  • Who do I want my children to grow up to be?
  • Who are my clients and my employees?
  •  How do I want them to perceive me and my organization?

When adjusting to a new advising role, I noticed the impact that Heart Led Leadership could have on the students I advise. In relation Student Affairs, all of the eighteen traits could be translated into our profession, but humility, selfishness, authenticity and faithfulness are a few of the traits that stood out to me the most.

  • Humility discusses the space that professionals often take up in a room and how people are perceived through their environments. The trait specifically mentions how visitors can tell a lot about a person by what is hanging in their office but even more by what is not hanging. When I reflect on my work space, it is not defined by my accomplishments but rather pictures and items of those who mean the most to me, as well as individuals I have served in the past.
  • Selfishness focuses on success stemming from collaboration and shared responsibility. Through being able to think in the “we” and a collectivist approach, people can build a sense of teamwork and community. This ultimately led me to observe my speech when speaking to the students I advise. I noticed how often I would say “I” and “we” in conversations and how using we in conversations had built a stronger sense of community and engagement from students. 
  • Authenticity is built upon establishing relationships and representing one’s true self. This incorporates getting to know everyone’s name in the office area and ensuring people feel valued and part of something larger than just their job. Beyond creating an environment of community, authenticity is about ensuring everyone is involved in decision making and giving the opportunity for opinions to be heard. This is especially important for student leaders and ensuring that they feel represented and appreciated within their roles. By practicing authenticity, the goal is that respect is created for each person and not just the position they hold.
  • Faithfulness relates to the energy that people bring into various spaces and the belief of continuously putting one foot in front of the other. When working with students, it is important to remain positive as it will spread to others and create an environment for success. It is also important to recognize every person has their own story with challenges. However, remaining positive can help build a support system for students and show that their advisor and mentors have faith in them to push through and succeed.

These four traits are ones I strive to show every day. The ability to give love to my job and connect with the people I work with creates a sense of family for me, which helps drive a successful environment. If I focus on putting the who first with those around me, I will achieve more and realize the small things in life really do matter especially when trying to help foster development in the students I advise.

Being a Who Leader isn’t just about putting your heart, emotions, hopes, and dreams at the center of your own life. It’s also about finding the who and the heart in others.” – Tommy Spaulding

Patrick Bussiere (he/him/his) works in the Office of Student Life as the Student Senate Graduate Advisor at the University Northern Colorado located in Greeley, Colorado. He spends his time finding new foods, exploring Colorado, and watching cooking shows.