Leading with Heart

Hello Friends!

I’ve given a number of Keynotes on the topics of “Owning Your Leadership” and “Leadership Effectiveness” over the last several months and one of the quotes I often use almost always creates a frisson of excitement:

“Leaders are made, not born, and made more by themselves than by any external means.”

Warren Bennis’s quote seems to awaken – in many cases for the first time – a feeling that leadership is something one can learn; it is something that we can work at; it is a skill like any other.
And as Amy Edmondson – the guru on psychological safety in the workplace – confirms, “Leader is a Role. Leadership is a Behaviour.”
Leadership of the past was often authoritarian, autocratic, and paternalistic. Over time, not only have companies and management changed and shifted, but the world has too. And leaders of today, and particularly leaders of tomorrow, are increasingly those whose leadership is driven by the “soft skills”. In other words, those who lead with heart.

Harvard Business Review


Leadership is a choice. Leadership is a practice. And making that choice is very much about being the change you want to see in the world. About modelling the skills and the behaviour that you want to see. Being a role model to create the corporate culture you want to be a part of.
This podcast episode on Lead vs Leader gives some excellent and very tangible examples of “this decision that we can and we have the opportunity to make, to be a leader, even though we’re not ‘the lead’”.


Another key skill for leaders of the future, is having a Growth Mindset. Believing that it is possible to change and grow is an essential building block for great leadership.

As Adam Grant discusses with Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, in this Re:Thinking episode, a growth mindset is all about having a sense of purpose and mission:

Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset…it’s really helped us go from this, know it all to learn it alls.”

Isn’t “learn it alls” the most inspiring thing ever?? I love it. It signifies such a thirst for knowledge and growth!! I’m going to start using that term as an enormous compliment!


So how exactly do you become this type of leader? What is the secret sauce to effective leadership? Turns out, it might just come down to four words: 

Lead from the Heart

And before you roll your eyes (as I confess I sometimes do when things veer too far out of facts & figures territory 😉) there is actual science to back this up! 

There’s compelling new science that proves human hearts actually play a huge role in motivating performance… The emerging science shows how the human heart and brain are connected through the vagus nerve, with the heart sending more signals to the brain than the brain sends back. The net effect is that human beings are not as rational as we’ve always believed and up to 95 percent of the decisions we make every day are driven by feelings and emotions. […] Employee decisions to be engaged, loyal, committed, and productive are not made rationally — they’re decisions made by their hearts.

I spent the past weekend on a continuing education course on neuroscience and behavioural psychology. (It was absolutely fascinating and I was like a human sponge the whole time!) And that is exactly what we learned. Did you know, that the Neocortex (the part of the brain we use to think) works *4 times slower* than the Limbic System, the part of the brain that contains feelings and emotions?? We are far less rational than we think. René Descartes might have been right with his “Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am” but that can be enhanced with Julia Harig’s “I feel therefore I decide and act”! 😀


I really enjoyed this podcast interviewing a female leader on how she developed her leadership style and how she chose her leadership behaviour. Her top tip? Know your Core Values. What motivates you? How do you make decisions? And are you modelling the behaviour you claim to espouse?

How much of your leadership style have you actively chosen? And what are the markers of a great leader for you??
Can’t believe we’re already through the first quarter of the year and it will be April tomorrow! I’m looking forward to sunnier days and a bit more outdoor activity!
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
Be emotional. Stay healthy.



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