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The keys to your heart

4 min read


I make no excuses for this post’s sentimental title.

This is because we know that in order to lead at your best, you have to lead with your heart as well as your head, and sometimes we need the keys to do that.

The head is the logical, decision-making, “doing” part of leadership. The heart is the emotional, compassionate, “being” part. Your heart is foundational to your ability to be an engaging, effective leader. Your head and your heart need to work in partnership for you to be at your best.

Your heart may be there, but it might not be big enough. Your heart may need some “exercise” in order to grow larger and to help you become more balanced in your behavior.

Let’s think about what it takes to exercise the heart in a way that will provide you with some keys to becoming an even better leader.

Stop your life on the “doing” treadmill for a few moments every day. Spend 15 minutes a day reflecting on how you can bring more heart into your leadership. Take notes. Draw pictures. Go for a walk out in nature. Meditate. Ask yourself, “What am I doing that could be more effective if I used my heart more?” I know you have deadlines, a family, a partner, things to do and people to see. Curiously, all of those things will fall into place and work better individually and together with small regular investments of your time in reflection. There are plenty of excuses for not taking the time but there is no excuse for not becoming a better leader. Fifteen minutes a day may just do it!

Put others first when you consider the impact of your choices and decisions. Ask yourself, “What effect will this have on my team, my peers, or other stakeholders?” or “How would I feel if I were in their shoes?” Invite others into the decision-making process when it makes sense to do so. Become more inclusive in your leadership, asking for others’ opinions and listening carefully to their answers, especially when they are contrary to your conclusions.

Accept that emotions are a part of life, and therefore a part of work. Express them and use them wisely. Notice them in others, and acknowledge them rather than ignoring or turning away from them. Become compassionate by opening your heart and being present to all of the wild, crazy, inconsistent and sometimes unfathomable things your employees do because they are expressing their emotions. Don’t judge expressions of emotions harshly but learn to work with them. They are human and a natural part of being alive, growing, and becoming better human beings.

Be you. Figure out who you are, what you stand for, and shed the façade that others see. They want to know you’re human. Your humanity gives you common ground for developing extraordinary relationships and leadership. Learn your values, your fears, your strengths and your gaps. Let go of perfection while still accepting the imperfect excellence of who you are. Be vulnerable and take risks by opening yourself up to others. While your ability to be “always on” and always thinking and talking about work is admirable, it doesn’t allow others to see you as a leader and human being with a heart.

Make your heart a bigger part of your leadership and you’ll see that the investment of time and effort will keep you balanced, creating extraordinary relationships while guiding you to be at your best.

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages Fortune 500 corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.