Friday, March 1, 2024

Are You the Type of Leader Who Speaks Last?

If you’re not familiar with the name Hortense le Gentil, get ready to be inspired by some valuable leadership take-aways. She stands out wherever she appears in the digital landscape, whether as a guest writer, her own website, or on Twitter/X (where we met) - and now, here on my blog. Recently, Hortense and I had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow a brief introduction.

Hortense le Gentil is a world-renowned executive leadership coach, speaker, and author. Her coaching work focuses on CEOs and senior executives on their journey from hero leaders to human leaders. She is the author of the widely acclaimed book Aligned, and recently released her latest book entitled, The Unlocked Leader: Dare to Free Your Own Voice, Lead With Empathy, and Shine Your Light in the World. Le Gentil’s thought leadership is informed by 30 years in business, working across industries including media consulting and advertising, and as an entrepreneur. Her thought-leadership has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., Business Insider, and Le Gentil grew up in France, where she was a competitive show jumper during her youth.

QUESTION: You included an inspirational quote in an article for Fast Company: "The most effective human leaders are those who have successfully re-positioned their role from quarterback to coach. Their job is no longer to handle the ball and score points; it is to inspire and support the players to give the best of themselves and make sure they play as a team so together they can score points. In other words, leading requires different attributes and behaviors than managing." Can you please elaborate as to how this plays out in office scenarios where office politics, silos, and big egos exist.

(Read full article here: “Why leaders should always speak last” at

HORTENSE LE GENTIL: It's a profound shift from being a "doer" to a "facilitator." In the throes of office politics and strong egos, it's the leader's duty to create an empowering atmosphere where each person feels safe to express themselves and knows that their contributions are valued and heard. This requires a leader to adopt new tools and skills. A clear vision is paramount — as the captain of the ship, you must communicate this vision to your team. You must become adept at listening and understanding – speak less, and when you do, speak last to ensure everyone's voice is heard. Leadership is about understanding what drives you and your team. Be like a real-life Ted Lasso! This is not just a change of actions but a transformation of mindset.

SHARE THIS: As a leader, speak last to ensure everyone's voice is heard. ~@hortenseleg #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Your book is entitled, THE UNLOCKED LEADER. What are three take-aways you hope every reader has?
HORTENSE LE GENTIL: I hope readers will embrace three key takeaways: first, that being a human leader requires immense courage — it's not a sign of weakness but of strength. Second, I want readers to be able to identify the mindtraps that are holding them back, the places where they're stuck. And finally, the goal is to initiate a mindshift, a change in mindset that opens the door to self-discovery and allows people to begin writing their own story in their own authentic voice.

QUESTION: You describe your mission as "helping executives on their journeys from hero leaders to human leaders." Those can be very different types of individuals. What are some of your secrets?
HORTENSE LE GENTIL: My work guiding executives from hero leaders to human leaders is rooted in empathy. I listen intently, strive to understand their challenges, and help them confront their fears without any judgment. My role is to accompany them on their journey, providing a space where they can be vulnerable, and discover their own authentic leadership style.

QUESTION: You are originally from France, and my summer internship during graduate school was in the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris. How are corporate cultures different in France (from the United States); and how are leaders different in the two countries?
HORTENSE LE GENTIL: I hesitate to generalize, however, I've observed that France, with its rich history, tends to be more anchored in the past than corporate culture in the United States. The U.S., with its diverse immigrant heritage, generally exhibits more openness to reinvention. While it's an oversimplification, French leaders tend to lean toward a more traditional "hero" leadership style, whereas. in the United States, there's a greater embrace of "human" leadership approaches. Of course, both countries have a mix of both styles!

QUESTION: Which three leaders from business or history inspire you, and why?
HORTENSE LE GENTIL: The leaders who inspire me include Gandhi, for his inspiring story of abandoning a life of comfort and embarking on a journey to deeply understanding the heart of his country before leading it to change. In terms of business leaders, I find two particularly inspiring: Satya Nadella, for his humility and ability to transform the culture of Microsoft informed by personal experiences; and John Donohoe, who exemplifies resilience and empathy, creating a narrative of success through collaboration. Each of these leaders showcases the power of human leadership to inspire and enact meaningful change.

My gratitude and appreciation to Hortense for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership insights.

Image Credit: WordSwag and Hortense le Gentil.

Connect with Hortense at these links:
The Unlocked Leader Book:

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