HR Leadership Redefined: A Masterclass with Hortense Le Gentil

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp's Managing Director, Communities & Partnerships, Carrie Bevis, and Senior Research Analyst, Tom Stone, facilitated a conversation with special guest Hortense le Gentil, a globally renowned executive leadership coach, speaker, and author. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Hortense's career included leadership roles in various French companies in the advertising, communication, and recycling industries. Most recently, she is the author of the new book The Unlocked Leader: Dare to Free Your Own Voice, Lead with Empathy, and Shine your Light in the World. (Attendees at i4cp's Next Practices Now Conference, March 25-28, 2024, will receive a copy of the book.)
  • When asked why she wrote the book, Hortense noted that the world was changing fast--and then in 2020 it changed dramatically, including what we need from good leaders. Today we don't need what she refers to as "superhero" leaders as much as we need "human" leaders.
  • One key aspect of being a "human" leader is demonstrating empathy. Loosely speaking, empathy is the ability to "put yourself in another person's shoes." Hortense discussed this further noting the importance of empathy in multiple contexts, such as towards customers, towards colleagues, and as a leader.
  • Hortense introduced the notion of "mindtraps." These are practices or behaviors that perhaps worked for someone in the past, but are no longer working in helping them to reach their goals. Leaders are often stuck in a mindtrap that is holding them back. Hortense shared a personal story of when recognizing a mindtrap, and overcoming it, first arose for her.
  • The key next question is: Where is the mindtrap coming from? Hortense said that most sources fall into two categories: past trauma or external voices (society, your local community, work colleagues, family, etc.) She shared an impactful story of a leader who was up for the position as CEO, but who didn't perform well during an interview--largely because he had a related public speaking trauma from his childhood. It had nestled in his sub-conscious and only arose again during the critical moment of the CEO interview process.
  • To effectively deal with a mindtrap, Hortense said three questions are critical: Is it true? Is it relevant? Is it helpful now? The answers to these questions will often all be no, at which point a leader has identified a mindtrap that is definitely holding them back. Going through this process is what Hortense refers to as a "mindshift" and after completing it you can more effectively move forward.
  • Hortense shared a second example of a CEO who grew up as an immigrant, and whose mother was a perfectionist and taught that to her children. This helped in some ways with drive, ambition, and effort throughout childhood--but was no longer effective as a trait of a good, human leader. He had to go through a mindshift, to thank her mother for what she gave him, but move on from it in the present time.
  • Hortense gave an effective analogy to this process--that of abandoning the training wheels on a bicycle. They were helpful at first, but if you keep them too long they will hinder your progress.
  • Returning to the concept of empathy, Hortense discussed the process of being effectively empathetic--i.e., putting yourself in the other person's shoes, to feel what they are feeling, but then importantly stepping back from that so that you can help them. Critical to this process is having a solid understanding of yourself: What drives you? What is your vision? How do you want to show up? What legacy do you want to leave? In this way, Hortense said that "effective empathy must start with yourself." This is needed for leaders to create broader environments/cultures of empathy, trust, etc.
  • Hortense shared an exercise, that you can use in your professional or personal life, where you consider three things: What do you want to keep? What do you want to drop? What do you want to add? This becomes a new compass for change going forward. Stone and Bevis noted this is similar to a business team strategy exercise commonly referred to as Start/Stop/Continue.

Links to resources shared on the call:

About Next Practices Weekly

This series provides a forum for HR leaders to come together, discover, and advance cutting-edge human capital practices. Each week, you’ll hear top executives from some of the world's largest and most respected organizations explore the future of work.

This event is exclusively for HR practitioners. Vendors and consultants are not permitted to attend.