leading with both makes better leaders

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

“The Heart” versus “The Head” continues to be one of the great debates in the world of leaders and leadership development. So much has been written on the topic, but mostly from the perspective of choosing one side over the other.

What if it wasn’t an “either or” or “better or worse” scenario and it was simply about understanding the uniqueness of each behavior.

As a coach, I personally love this topic and thought it was time to lay out all the facts in a simple and concise manner and let you – the reader decide for yourself. Let’s look at the research regarding the pros and cons of leading from your head versus your heart. 


Leading With Your Head

People who lead only with their head can seem unemotional or uncaring about the unique qualities those around them bring to the table. They usually don’t know their team (or peers) well, and they aren’t intuitive about how to excite or motivate others.

• Stays focused on goals.
• Engages in long-range thinking and planning.
• Takes a big-picture view.
• Enjoys seeing new possibilities.
• Scans the horizon for the next big opportunity.

• Doesn’t fully consider the effects a change will have on organizational culture.
• May be less apt to focus on team members’ individual needs.
• Complains about lack of progress toward goals.
• Does not give sufficient attention to the process by which goals are met.
• Neglects to ensure that the tactical details of the change process are handled.

“Leading with your head is about competence and knowledge”


Leading With Your Heart

People who lead only with their heart can seem overly emotional, basing their decisions on whether or not someone’s feelings may get hurt. This type of behavior usually results in the leader avoiding conflict. Heart-only leaders are good at motivating teams, but usually lack the direction and strategy needed to accompany their motivational skills.

• Encourages people to join in discussions, decisions.
• Steps in to resolve process problems, such as conflict.
• Listens to all viewpoints.
• Recognizes and praises others for their efforts.
• Helps reduce stress by lightening the mood.

• Sees team process and organizational climate as ends in themselves.
• Fails to challenge or contradict others.
• Does not recognize the importance of accomplishing tasks.
• Overuses humor and other conflict-mitigation techniques.
• Does not emphasize long-range planning

“Leading with your heart is about care and connection”

Final thoughts:
Although each leadership style brings both a positive and negative influence. There’s still no denying the leader who readily possesses the ability to lead with both their head and their heart are unique and powerful individuals who can rise to most any occasion.

Mandela once said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” and he was right.

Your goal as a leader should be to find a healthy combination of your head and your heart when leading others so that they can learn and develop. As you continue to grow your own leadership skills you will become better at understanding when to use each.

The floor is yours: Are you a head, heart or both type of leader?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

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