Prevailing management wisdom tells us that high EQ is an important part of leadership – but can taking care of people’s needs too much hamper their growth? Executive coach Margie Hartley certainly thinks so. 

“People can be great coaching leaders and I believe that’s an effective style, but it doesn’t mean you don’t challenge people,” says Hartley, founder of Gram Consulting Group. “Being challenged is an opportunity to grow and learn. People come to work for so much more than money, like the experience of satisfaction, fulfilment and growth.”

Hartley has worked with 11 of the top 20 ASX-listed companies, helping leaders realise their full potential and her podcast FastTrack is a masterclass in leadership. Hartley joined the panel at Qantas magazine’s Think. event to discuss what makes a leader truly memorable at SK Steak & Oyster in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, hosted in association with LSH Auto Australia. 

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Hartley describes being wary of taking the caring side of coaching too far. “We can't just support people all the time,” she says, listing a range of mollycoddling possibilities: “‘What do you need?’; ‘It’s all right, you can go home’; ‘Come in late’; ‘Do you need me to boil you an egg, today?’ It’s mind-blowing at times,” she laughs. 

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Overindulgence is a dead-end for strengthening skills and broadening horizons, for leaders and the rest of the team alike. “If you only support people, you get the frozen middle, the complacent.” 

According to Hartley, those who are asked to step up and out of their comfort zone are set up for growth – with a couple of caveats. “We don’t want so much challenge that someone is fearful to come to work or to make a mistake. It’s about performance peak, where there’s enough challenge and stretch for a goal and there’s enough support in the resources, tools and education you give somebody. That’s when they’re going to be worth their weight in gold to you.”

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Hartley says building trust is also integral to success. “Trust comes when you trust others. It’s the foundation of all relationships and I believe that leadership is a relationship business. We assume that a leader has capability plus a strategy, commercial and financial acumen. But at the end of the day the thing that will make the difference in your ability to succeed is the relationship you have with yourself and the relationships you have with your people.”

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Those who are able to combine appropriate levels of challenge, trust and a genuine ability to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses can grow to become a truly memorable leader, according to Hartley. “Self-evaluation is so important for leaders. Talented leaders have clarity about who they are and how they lead and everybody wants to follow them as a result.”

Think. is a thought-leadership event and content series, presented by Qantas magazine and in association with LSH Auto Australia – the country’s leading Mercedes-Benz dealer group. Find out more about LSH Auto Australia.

SEE ALSO: David Knoff: Adapt Your Leadership Style to the Moment

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