One of the most important and valuable intangible assets in any business is its leadership. Effective leadership propels a team forward through the toughest challenges and aligns everyone around initiatives that drive success.

At HCTec, we place great emphasis on investing in our people and developing leaders at all levels throughout our organization. This year, our team embarked upon a leadership training curriculum, dubbed HCTec LEADS. The program is being delivered in partnership with business consulting firm Executive Aura and one of its principals, Kimberly Pace, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Graduate Management.

The 12-month program focuses primarily on HCTec’s Leader Success Profile and developing the skills and behaviors required to be an effective leader.  As part of the curriculum, we read Simon Sinek’s book first published in 2014, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” The book is a great read on servant leadership and how the best leaders are always ready to make personal sacrifices to put their teammates and organization first.

One interesting notion explored in the book is the positive impact of face-to-face interactions with teammates. Generally speaking, when we experience physical touching, such as through shaking hands or hugging, our bodies release a chemical called oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the “love drug” or the “bonding hormone.” This also stimulates the release of other feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin and reduces stress-related hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine.

We can see this play out in the business world in a variety of different ways. Tough conversations are best had in person as opposed to being delivered by email or a web conference. Similarly, exciting news shared face to face beats out a memo any day of the week. And we’ve all been in meetings where teammates feed off the energy of others, whether that’s in an ideation session, a new business meeting, or simply around the water cooler.

But how does this play out in today’s world of increasingly virtual interactions and remote workspaces – especially following the COVID-19 pandemic? Through the circumstances of the last year, we learned that many businesses across different industries can operate almost entirely virtually. But while this model can work, is it the best route forward? Working remotely brings greater flexibility, convenience, and eliminates geographical barriers, of course, but what do we lose by removing our physical interactions with each other?

This is one topic that I’ve continued to contemplate as we’ve progressed through the HCTec LEADS program with Kimberly and Executive Aura. As a leader, how do you encourage, motivate, and strengthen your team when you have less physical time together? Is it possible to recreate or simulate the benefits of in-person interactions and meetings?

Undoubtedly, this is something that almost all businesses will have to tackle as the world slowly returns to normal. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have, and perhaps Simon will share his thoughts in what is a much needed addendum to “Leaders Eat Last.”