The #1 Reason to Lead the Whole Person

While many of you were enjoying Valentine’s Day this year with your special someone, I decided to join 1100 middle school students at a youth retreat in the Colorado mountains. I’m still a little upset that I didn’t get chocolate, flowers, and wine, but I will get over it. Hopefully, my husband will too. Gratefully, I learned a lot about caring leadership.

I absolutely love living in Colorado! I enjoy the crisp air, the snow-capped mountains, the extensive hiking opportunities, and the people. Needless to say, I was eager to chaperone this event as I always heard amazing feedback from the previous years’ chaperones. It sounded transformative. Indeed, it was.

What I enjoyed most about my time at this retreat were the small group sessions.

Warmly, my group was extra special, since I had sixth and seventh-grade girls, many of them were in my son’s class. Nostalgically, I saw them grow up. As a result, they were more comfortable with me. This environment was ripe for a leadership lesson on how to lead the whole person.

Surprisingly, the weight of leadership was on my shoulders as I asked them questions and could see their reliance on me for the answers. I asked them questions of faith, personal identity, prioritization, and much more. Their answers were both innocent and transparent. I wanted to respond to them in that moment. Then, I needed to both show them compassion and remain strong when my heart hurt for some who expressed confusion and dislike for who they were and how they could best impact the world. More importantly, I knew I needed to lead the whole person.

Admittedly, I held back tears after hearing their responses. Unfortunately, Many felt unworthy, unfulfilled, like they didn’t belong and like they were lost.

On my podcast and in my writing, I talk about the need to not appear perfect or untouched sitting with those we lead. Truthfully, I was the one being led. Honestly, they exhibited caring leadership as they listened intently to the others present and responded with empathy.

The true meaning of “lead the whole person” came to a head for me this weekend. Proudly, I left there feeling like I created a safe space for them to air their fears, questions, and concerns without judgement. These young ladies wanted to find a place where they could be themselves and accepted for all their quirkiness. Certainly, I hope they found that in these small group meetings.

I will forever be grateful for that time. I will think of them fondly and pray that the best comes to them. My hope will be that they are called to do what they were put on this earth to do and that they answer that call with excitement and authenticity.

Leading others is a huge responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. Fundamentally, our people depend on us to help them see their way out of darkness and confusion and into a place of enlightenment and light. Finally, let’s all resolve to lead the whole person and meet our people where we find them. I received a gift for doing so. I pray that you can find a gift like this too.


Heather Younger
Heather Younger
Heather Younger gets it. As a best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. Her experiences as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies – large and small - tick. Heather has facilitated more than 150 workshops, reaching +100 employers and their employees. Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on large and small stages. Companies have charted their future course based on her leading more than 100 focus groups. In addition, she has helped companies see double-digit employee engagement score increases through the implementation of her laws and philosophies. She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government. Heather brings a tenacious and inspirational outlook to issues plaguing the workforces of today. Her book “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization's dynamics. Heather’s writing can also be found on her blog at EmployeFanatix, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, American Express Open Forum, and more. Coupled with her Leadership with Heart podcast, weekly videos, and employer newsletters, Heather stays connected to organizations long after she leaves the stage or conference roomWhen all the emails are returned and the mic is turned off, and Heather acts as co-manager of her busy household in Aurora, Colorado with her husband, where they oversee their four children.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this interesting experience.
    Leadership, thanks to the suitable soft skills, can be acquired and increased throughout one’s life, but it is better to start at school age; school is fundamental to its development. Everything a student learns gains value if, at the same time, he learns to know himself better and to trust in his own abilities and potential. For example, being able to communicate, negotiate and listen in a constructive and structured way, with principles that can be taught and learned, means being able to express yourself in a more direct, open and appropriate way in any other discipline.
    In addition to transmitting new knowledge and skills, the school must create curious, creative and enterprising young people who know how to look at the world with originality, able to learn from their mistakes and start again in a new way every time.
    “Better a generation capable of changing the world than one capable of adapting to the changing world”.

  2. Thank you Heather. Love the picture, love that you are with leaders of tomorrow. Love you understand and examplify the true meaning of leading the whole being. All those kids and your kids are so lucky to look up to you as they form their own understanding of the world. Love you my friend. Always remember you at WorkHuman when Kimberly introduced us.