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The art of impactful leadership lies in the middle

Nico Hohman encourages leaders to utilize a disparate balance of virtuous pillars. The list includes anger, empathy and transcendence.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 9:50 a.m. December 16, 2021
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Courtesy. Nico Hohman worked in real estate before going into leadership training and development.
Courtesy. Nico Hohman worked in real estate before going into leadership training and development.
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Nico Hohman spent five years building his real estate career in the Tampa region. He founded a residential real estate brokerage and property management firm, and later got into commercial real estate. His entities managed or sold 300 properties valued at nearly $100 million, and, in another business, he helped train some 350 agents.

But what Hohman really wanted to do was write a book. So when the pandemic hit and his businesses, for a time, dried up, he forged ahead on adding how-to sales author to his resume. “I did two chapters,” Hohman says, “and I realized I wasn’t very good at writing about sales.”

Like many others in the pandemic, Hohman shifted. Splitting time between Virginia and Tampa, with his wife and three young kids, Hohman’s pivot was to leadership techniques. Hohman has some experience as a leader: he coached the golf team at Jesuit High School in Tampa for three seasons and he launched and ran three businesses.

Hohman created a leadership template based on his life and work experience, what he calls the Eaactive Leadership Style. That preceded the book and another business, in leadership consulting, under the brand Eaactive Leadership.

The lynchpin to it all is Hohman’s Eaactive Leadership Style Assessment, an online, 30-question quiz that gauges where a leader’s head is at on a variety of psychological touch points. Questions range from “how often are you asked for your opinion” and “how frequently do you listen” to “how often do you get frustrated” and “how frequently do you lose your temper?”

The goal, Hohman told me on a recent Zoom call, is to provide someone a road map to what kind of leader they are when it comes to his five Pillars of Virtuous Leadership: empathy, anger, advice, courage and transcendence. Those pillars, Hohman says, correspond to one of the Big Five personality traits: agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness to experience.

The survey answers provide a score on each of the five pillars and give the aspiring leader an overall outcome — leader designations like, volunteer, mediator, influencer ands futurist. (There are 32 possible outcomes. See side story for more details.)

“The curriculum is designed for small business owners, medium size business owners and entrepreneurs,” Hohman says. “But I could see it working in church and religious organizations and in political campaigns as well.”

Right thing, right way

Hohman stresses the ultimate goal of his leadership curriculum is to provide a guide on how leaders can assess information and make decisions consistent with their five pillars. “As leadership duties go, making decisions — especially big, difficult choices — is the most important thing a leader can do,” Hohman wrote in a blog post in April promoting his book, Leadership Down the Middle: Using Virtues to Lead, Guide & Decide.  

A glance at each pillar includes:

• Empathy: Empathetic leaders have a high propensity to care about the world around them, Hohman says. They will comprise, but not go against their values. They tend to be optimistic, considerate and kind — and also tend to excel at leading transformational teams.

Anger: Hohman says he gets the most questions about this pillar, given anger isn’t necessarily a top-of-mind virtue. But in this context, he considers anger a frustration that could lead to sustainable change. "Anger, when channeled correctly, will drive you to amend the way you feel about something by making you want to fix that injustice or inconsistency in order to make you and others feel whole,” Hohman writes.

'As leadership duties go, making decisions — especially big, difficult choices — is the most important thing a leader can do.' Nico Hohman

Anger corresponds directly with neuroticism, Hohman says. And neurotic leaders are “often linked with having a low tolerance for worry and anxiety” and are more likely than others to overreact. “While on the surface this may seem like a personal detriment,” Hohman says, “neurotic leaders tend to be the best change agents.”

Advice: Advice corresponds to conscientiousness, Hohman says, and conscientious leaders have high levels of self- discipline. It’s not just about spouting off on every topic that comes through the door, either. Asks Hohman: “Do you have the be ability to provide the right advice, at the right time in the right way?”

Mark Gordon.
Mark Gordon.

Courage: Hohman defines courage as the “ability to do something you know is right or good, even though it is dangerous, frightening or difficult.” A leader with courage, he adds, is assertive when others need assistance. “Courage lets your employees know you stand for something,” he says.

Transcendence: Corresponding to openness to experience, transcendence, Hohman says, is essentially “living your life with a higher purpose.” A transcendent leader “is intellectually curious... and interested, willing and able to feel a wide range of emotions.”

Best practices

The key to combining all the pillars into one leadership lesson, says Hohman, is to remember a life truism: everything in moderation. And that’s the message of his book. “Leaders should never get too high or too low,” Hohman says. “In nearly every situation, virtuous leaders should lead right down the middle.”

Hohman profiles as a futurist leader off the assessment, he says, scoring high in emotional responses and anger. In translating that kind of leader to something in the current business world, Hohman says he admires executives like Hubert Joly, the CEO who led a turnaround at electronics giant Best Buy. “The wave of the future is to put people over profits,” says Hohman, citing Joly’s book, The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism. “That’s something that really resonates with me.”



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