What it Really Means to Lead from the Heart and How to Do It

 In leadership

Heart-centred LeadershipOn a recent trip to the US, I lost my cell phone. It happened when I was frantically rummaging through my bag at the airport looking for my passport.  If you’re thinking about now that I, Karen Kelloway, may just be a bit scattered on trips and probably shouldn’t travel alone, you are correct. But I don’t yet have the status for an entourage.  So, when travelling for work, my strategy is to imitate what feels like an appropriate level of confidence and hope for the best. On this occasion, my iPhone slipped from its dedicated pocket inside my bag, bounced soundlessly on the ground with its protective rubber case and stayed there, abandoned, as I passed through security and boarded the plane.

It was about that time @DJPhatboy — at least that’s how I’ve come to know him — was walking through the airport and noticed the iPhone on the floor. He picked it up and over the next several days tried to figure out the owner. You can imagine my elation when I got an email from a friend who said some guy has my cell phone and wanted to get it back to me.  I did a quick search and saw that we are both on Twitter, that he is indeed a DJ and that he has a pretty cool website.  When we spoke on the phone I was absolutely amazed that he would take the time to not only track me down, but also courier my phone to me. Within a week of losing my phone in an airport nearly two thousand miles away, I had it back in my hands completely intact.

Would you say this guy has a good heart? Is he the type of person you would want as your manager, boss, or leader?

I’ve been doing some background reading about heart-centred leadership. If it’s true that making heart-based decisions, instead of brain-based decisions, are better for your health, creates more fulfillment and greater success in your life, then I’d like to find a simplistic way of helping you with the ‘how’.  How do you make heart-based decisions?

First of all, let me just say that I don’t usually go around talking about ‘leading with your heart’.  This may surprise you, but the softer kind of language typically makes me squeamish.  I don’t know why. I think it’s because like many of us, I’m wired to equate brain thinking with achieving results. The idea of leading with heart  – not the brain – causes some inner anxiety, like we might miss something. Of course, I intuitively know that the heart plays a huge role in good decision-making. But to get there with those I’m coaching, I use more ‘corporately comfortable’ phrases such as being ‘aligned with your core values’.  If I were to be more specific and unfiltered, though, I would say that’s it’s the heart-centred managers who are the most thoughtful about their decision-making and therefore more personally satisfied in their roles.

One book I’ve been reading is called The Heart’s Code, by Dr. Paul Pearsall. Dr. Pearsall writes that personal well-being is less a matter of personal fulfillment than being in energetic balance with all the hearts and energy around you. This is opposite to how most go about setting their personal goals.  Usually, we think of conquering our own achievements and then we’ll feel good around others. Re-read what Dr. Pearsall wrote. He says pay attention to how you are connecting with others and that will give you personal fulfillment. To understand if you are in what he calls cardio energetic alignment with those around you, he says to ask the simple question: “How do I make others feel?”

In all the performance plans I’ve created with others I’m not sure I’ve ever put: “How I make others feel” as a measurement outcome. I’m not sure how we’d measure it.  And if we did some sort of survey, I imagine the responses would vary depending on the day you asked the question. What we’re going for, though, is the overall theme of how you make people feel — inspired, motivated, engaged, annoyed…it’s a risky question!

Yet if we want a simple way to tune into this idea of heart-centred leadership, it’s exactly the question to start asking. Considering how we’re making someone feel forces us to pause long enough to take in the contributions of both the brain and heart before forging ahead.

Here’s the other challenge with heart-centered leadership – you can’t just ‘do it’, you have to’ feel it’ to really get what it’s all about.  When people share their successes and work achievements with me, I can almost always trace the ‘how’ back to things like: how they interacted with someone differently; how they inspired the individuals on their team; how they connected more sincerely in conversation one-on-one or how they came across more authentically when presenting to a group. Guess what? That’s all heart stuff. We’re just not calling it that.

So here’s my challenge for you: Ask the question! Do this five times today.  When you’re in the middle of a conversation, ask yourself the question: “How am I making this person feel?” See if it changes the outcome for the better.

I can’t wait to hear how this goes for you! Please share this post (and the love!) with others by pressing one of the icons below.

Wishing you full career alignment and success,

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