Leadership & Feelings

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter, brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week. This interview is part of the International Leadership Association Series.  This series features guests from the International Leadership Association 2022 Global Conference held in Washington, D.C., in October 2022.

This week’s article is written by Betsy Myers, a renowned expert on emerging leadership trends and women’s leadership and is the author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You. It is a companion piece to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future titled You Are Enough, You Are Worthy: Leadership Lessons for Women which aired on March 14, 2023. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

Our guest, Betsy Meyers, shares her insights about two key leadership questions:


1. Why is it that some leaders challenge and motivate us to be our best selves, while others drain our spirit?  What are the key ingredients of leadership necessary for getting results with the modern workforce and customer? 

Becoming an effective leader—someone who is able to rally others around a cause, who inspires others to collaborate towards a common goal, who can bring people together to make a powerfully positive difference in the world—starts with leading ourselves. The bedrock of leadership is honest self-reflection and a personal commitment to the lifelong pursuit of unblinking self-knowledge.

Being an effective leader often has less to do with knowing the answers, and far more to do with being willing to ask the important questions— and listening to the input, experiences, and perspectives of those around you. The answers are most often right in our midst, just waiting for a leader to recognize, articulate, and act on them.

And finally, good leadership at its core is about the positive feelings it creates. Imagine a world where people felt valued, appreciated, and understood, both at work and at home. It’s a beautiful thought and a leader can truly make a difference when they connect to their hearts and embrace our shared humanity.


2. As we elaborate on the topic of feelings, let’s clarify what that really means. How is leadership about feelings? This statement sounds a bit soft. How can leadership relating to feelings drive results?  

Advanced degrees, years of experience, an important title, or access to power do not guarantee that you will be a successful leader. Leadership is about how you make people feel—about you, about the project or work you’re doing together, and especially about themselves. 

Why? Because people do their best work when they feel good about themselves and what they’re doing. When people feel valued, appreciated, heard, supported, acknowledged, and included, they are motivated to bring their best selves forward. This is how initiatives get launched, profits are made, and the work gets done. It’s not just about being nice, it is about being effective.

Most of us don’t think of feelings as being the key to leadership success. It seems almost counterintuitive. But think for a moment about the times in your life when you have been most productive: were those also the times when you felt most valued, supported, and appreciated?


The ILI team wanted to elaborate on Betsy’s comments because they strongly support the idea that how people feel at work drives performance, improves customer experience, and ultimately contributes to profitability.

There are several frameworks ranging from the Gallup Engagement framework to Jim Ritchie-Dunham’s Harmonic Vibrancy framework that prove statistically that people who feel good about themselves while at work and feel good about the people with whom they work, are more engaged in the mission and deliver tangibly better results.

Here are a few examples of research studies that support this:

  1. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that happy employees are 31% more productive than their unhappy peers. The study also found that happy employees take fewer sick days, have lower turnover rates, and are more likely to provide excellent customer service.
  2. Research conducted by Gallup found a 23% difference in profitability between companies with highly engaged employees and those with low employee engagement.
  3. A study by the University of Warwick found that happy employees were 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.
  4. A report by the World Economic Forum found that companies that prioritize employee well-being outperform their peers in terms of financial performance.
  5. According to a study by the University of California, Riverside, happy employees are more creative and innovative, leading to higher levels of innovation and a better ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

How employees feel impacts the bottom line – it is part of a path to profitability! By creating a supportive and positive work environment, companies can increase productivity, reduce turnover, and improve customer service, leading to increased profits and long-term success.



Betsy Myers is on a mission to improve leadership by developing leaders and teams who infuse passion and purpose into their organizations by leading from both the head and the heart. Betsy’s insightful keynotes and workshops have inspired and offered practical guidance to executives and managers around the world who want to level up their leadership, retain top talent, and achieve results in the modern workplace.

Betsy is a renowned expert on emerging leadership trends and women’s leadership and is the author of Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You. She currently serves on the Council on Advancing Women in Business for the Export-Import Bank of the United States and has extensive experience in the corporate world, government settings, and in higher education.

Previously, she was founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University and executive director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School. A senior adviser to two U.S. presidents, Betsy served as President Clinton’s Advisor on Women’s Issues and was Chief Operating Officer of President Obama’s 2008 National Presidential Campaign. She also held leadership roles in the U.S. Small Business Administration.



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Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-Creating Our Future via Apple PodcastsTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

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