Lead with a Strong Mind and a Kind Heart with Carolyn Stern · ShiftWorkPlace

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Ep99 Lead with a Strong Mind and a Kind Heart with Carolyn Stern


Emotional intelligence is a soft skill that every leader needs to possess.

Bio for Carolyn Stern

Carolyn Stern, is the author of The Emotionally Strong Leader: An Inside-Out Journey to Transformational Leadership. She is the President and CEO of EI Experience, an executive leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm. She is a certified Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Expert, professional speaker, and university professor whose emotional intelligence courses and modules have been adopted by top universities in North America. She has also provided comprehensive training programs to business leaders across the continent in highly regarded corporations encompassing industries such as technology, finance, manufacturing, advertising, education, healthcare, government, and food service.

Episode highlight

Emotional intelligence is among the skills that 21st-century leaders need to master. Carolyn Stern calls it leading with a strong mind and a kind heart.

Growing up, Carolyn was deemed to be a very sensitive child. Her family did whatever it took to hide things from her, which led her to doubt her ability to handle emotional issues. Carolyn had constant feelings of anxiety, which turned her worries into emotional outbursts, panic attacks, meltdowns, and ultimately, emotional dependence on her mother.

Later in life, Carolyn was diagnosed with anxiety, and that became her turning point. She decided to put work into personal development. Her journey led her to become passionate about emotional intelligence, and it became her area of genius. 

In this episode, Carolyn takes us through her journey to becoming emotionally intelligent and how current-day leaders can incorporate emotional intelligence into their leadership.



  • “When you can connect with people on an emotional level, great things can happen for you and the other people.”
  • “Many leaders forget that they are teachers. As teachers, we know the answers to our students tests, for instance, but we don’t give them the answers or else they’re not learning.”
  • “It’s scary to put your ideas out there for the world to judge.”


Childhood Incidents 

As a child, Carolyn was so dependent on her mother that anytime her mother was away, she always wore her bathrobe to have her smell. She was always afraid that her mother wouldn’t come back.

Carolyn was a teacher as a young adult. One day, two of her students got into a fistfight. For Carolyn, the best way to address the issue was to give important roles to the two students. She made them both vice presidents of production and vice president of human resources. Her colleagues and friends thought it was crazy, but it worked. When Carolyn was working on her book, she got in touch with one of the students who confirmed that Carolyn had a positive impact on her life even years after.

Influential Groups 

Carolyn grew up as the only Caucasian girl in her class. The rest were Japanese, and she always admired them and their culture. Her mom was convinced that her daughter would marry a Japanese man later in life. According to Carolyn, growing up, she knew nothing about her Jewish religion. She confesses to never talking about Hannukah but always talked about Christmas.  She hid her religion to fit in. Later in life, Carolyn studied Japanese, which opened her up to the different levels of Japanese politeness.

Leadership Style Influence

Leaders are teachers, and Carolyn believes that just like teachers don’t give answers to their students during exams, leaders should not provide answers to the people they are leading. Leaders should give guidance and let the people figure things out on their own. Carolyn has used this leadership style, and she believes it is the secret sauce because it has worked for her with the employees and clients.  

Temperaments and personality

Carolyn grew up a child who believed in going big or going home. She was sensitive, persistent, anxious, always worried about the future, easily distracted and persistent.

Carolyn believes her personality is influential: an extrovert who loves to connect with many people, an intuitive thinker who goes with her gut, always needs closure, is dependable and has excellent attention to detail.

Cultural Epiphanies

At 18, Carolyn went to Japan for the first time. Having grown up around  Japanese, she expected the people in Japan to be extremely kind to her because the Japanese she knew were kind. Shock hit her when she got to the subway, and the kindness could not be seen or felt.

When still in Japan, Carolyn realized how Japanese receive a business card when you give it to them. They receive it with both hands and take their time to look at it instead of immediately shoving it into their pockets. To Carolyn, that shows a level of respect.

What brings out the best in Carolyn?

Carolyn loves working with people who lead with emotional intelligence and with a strong mind and kind heart.

Soapbox moment

Carolyn invites us to check out her latest book, ‘The Emotionally Strong Leader.’


Carolyn Stern is an emotional intelligence expert who has walked the path of self-awareness and self-development from a tender age and is certainly articulate about her inner discoveries. Her book “The Emotionally Strong Leader: An Inside-Out Journey to Transformational Leadership” teaches emotional intelligence through the metaphor of a strong mind and kind heart. I enjoyed listening to Carolyn’s explanation of her journey to uncover barriers to growth, set goals and tap into internal motivation. 

I’m looking forward to reading a copy of her book to celebrate her interview on the 100th episode of the Culture and Leadership Connections Podcast!


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