Podcast #106

Hannes Leroy – Curiosity, challenges and authenticity

What do you think people buy into first? The vision, or as John Maxwell says, the leader?

Hannes Leroy

Hannes Leroy is Associate Professor at Erasmus University and Distinguished Research Professor at Exeter Business School. As Academic Director of the Erasmus Center of Leadership, Hannes helps to oversee the quality of leadership development at different levels in Erasmus University (undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, and executive education). Furthermore, as steward of the League of Leadership initiative he helps to oversee an international consortium of top business schools across the world with the mission of collectively enhancing quality standards of leadership development. Aligned with these efforts, Hannes has published numerous studies on leadership and its development in top journals, has taught a wide variety of leadership classes and is principal coordinator of various leadership development curricula.

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Hannes said that your non-verbal signals have to correspond to what you’re saying. I wonder how much people can trust somebody if their main point of contact is emails and the occasional zoom call. How many non-verbal signals can somebody’s brain pick up on, if they’re not around the person enough? That’s something I didn’t really think about in office working, the greater chance of creating that relationship just with your small day-to-day actions. I remember Cynthia Bryant talking about the importance of closing your eyes and trying to figure out what you can tell beyond that. Maybe I should now do the opposite, keep my eyes open but try not to listen, putting my fingers in my ears or something. How much information can I impart just beyond the words I’m saying?

Podcast Notes

Imagine a working environment where everybody is enjoying what they are doing and where a person’s performance is not purely driven by their need or want for money and status. To many people, work feels more like an arduous labour to pay the bills when it really should feel more purpose driven and fulfilling than this. This is where leaders have a powerful influence; to cultivate an intrinsically motivated workforce.

According to Hannes Leroy, Associate Professor at Erasmus University and Distinguished Research Professor at Exeter Business School, leaders have the responsibility to influence their followers to work from a place of what truly motivates them, and not purely because they have to, to get paid.

Also the Academic Director of the Erasmus Centre of Leadership, Hannes helps to oversee the quality of leadership development at different levels in Erasmus University. Through his experience, he has learnt that leaders need to extend their mindset around their roles to go beyond the belief that we’re just there to set and communicate goals to teams.

One of the key things that he advocates for all leaders is to encourage and lean into curiosity with their followers.

What should curiosity look like as a leader? As a thought starter, think about what it means to be curious about other human beings. Hannes says that if a leader wants to help an employee to achieve a goal, they should be curious from the start and ask probing questions like, who are you, what do you want in life? He believes this to be a vital way to find out how each person is wired.

Understanding how people are wired is key for any leader to truly understand how best to navigate the way in which they work with their team. He says that leaders need more than listening skills, and by being fundamentally curious about the person (the who) of the employee, this should extend to non-work aspects too.

By adopting this approach towards people, leaders can then take that information about the people in their teams and design people’s jobs in ways that they will find pleasing to perform. This is more practical than it sounds, as you will then also be able to frame certain tasks in ways that individuals can understand.

Hannes goes on to say that leaders should be asking their employees more questions and should be intentional about displaying genuine interest in the personal stories of their followers. While the balancing act between professionalism and personal life is the obvious concern for most people in business, when you consider that you spend most of your awake time in the workplace, and interacting with people in the work environment, this is in fact one of the few places where you do have the opportunity to develop personal connections.

With this in mind Hannes has made it a point to listen to people with the idea that he will learn something interesting and useful that he may use in his leadership at some point.

In this Exponentially Me podcast, Hannes Leroy shares more about his views on leadership and relationships and why it is important that if you are a leader, you should strive to be fundamentally curious about people and how you can cultivate an environment where people feel like they can come to you with honest feedback and open ideas.

Podcast Timed Index

00.00 – Leadership as a relationship
03.24 – Speaking to your boss
06.57 – Admitting mistakes
10.20 – idealistic young people
14.34 – fear
17.04 – The Compassionate Sweet Spot
19.26 – Being Challenged
25.37 – Challenges Facing Leaders
27.02 – Calling Yourself a Leader
29.17 – Impact
30.54 – Truth

Get in touch with Hannes Leroy
Articles, Books or Publications by Hannes Leroy
More quotes from Hannes Leroy
Being curious about other human beings but especially as a leader, I think that is really important.

Leaders don't ask enough questions and are not always genuinely interested in a personal story.

‘Wouldn't it be a shame in our lives if we spend so much time in the workplace and we don't develop those personal connections there.’

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