Heart-Centered Leadership

It's one thing to say I 'lead from the heart' but when the rubber meets the road at work, just how much 'heart' comes into it? Research & theory, although very necessary and helpful, doesn't always play out the way we'd like in real life. As much as I love the sound of being a heart-centered leader and I have the desire to lead from the heart, I'm also a highly practical gal and need to unpack exactly what 'heart-centered leadership' looks like day to day. As I'm writing this I'm already recalling a challenging conversation I've had recently with a staff member and as I reflect on how I responded at the time, I'm questioning just how much 'heart' I brought to the table.


To explore this work, I've gone straight to the expert; Susan Steinbrecher, author of the book 'Heart Centered Leadership; Lead Well, Live Well.'


Steinbrecher says that in order for heart centered behaviour to be authentic, it has to come from a place of emotional resonance and coherence. You have to believe in what you are doing and it has to resonate with you. Ultimately a heart centered leader leads from principles, values, and virtues.


She says that 'heart-centered leadership lies in your ability to stop, go inward, and reflect on the course of action you know is the right one rather than succumbing to external pressures and circumstances.' This is of course easier said than done, for example, when you've got people waiting on you for an important decision that will ultimately impact people and their lives and you're under pressure from a community.

Steinbrecher goes on to say that by embracing a heart-centered approach to leadership, you will be in a more powerful position than you could possibly have imagined. You will genuinely and deeply touch the lives of others by your actions. This I believe whole heartedly.

Anyone can be a heart-centered leader if he or she has the determination and daily commitment to practice certain core principles. The root or basis of these principles is fueled by “the power of the human element.” By acknowledging and honoring the human element, heart-centered leaders possess the wisdom and capacity to positively transform any organization.


The seven principles are; Know Thyself, Don't Judge, They Need What You Need, Letting Go, Know Your Impact, Associates Have a Choice and Care for the Heart.


The seven virtues are; Commitment to Personal Growth, Open-Mindedness, Authenticity, Detachment & Trust, Integrity and Foresight, Humility & Humbleness, and Self-Care/Emotional Health.




So what does it take to be a heart centered leader? According to Steinbrecher, if the following 21 traits resonate with you, you may be well on your way to a form of leadership driven by the principles of integrity and authenticity.


You Might be a Heart-Centered Leader if...


  1. You tell the truth.

  2. You trust your associates to do the right thing.

  3. You are able to relinquish control. As leaders, we don't really have it anyway. Our associates do. If you think that's not true, try getting anything done without them.

  4. You know your impact and are mindful of how your words and actions may be interpreted in formal and informal ways.

  5. You aim to serve the people that you are leading, not the other way around.

  6. You are open-minded and do not judge or assume, but come to understand a situation or behavior.

  7. You take care of your "whole-self"-- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

  8. You have the willingness to look in the mirror and come to terms with your own character flaws.

  9. You are committed to personal and professional growth.

  10. You strive to mentor others and surround yourself with people that have skills, talents and styles different from your own.

  11. You are empathetic and strive to maintain the self-esteem of others.

  12. You have an "open-door" policy.

  13. You believe that, given the right support, people rise to the occasion on their own and actually feel good about being held accountable.

  14. You develop strategies that involve, promote, call upon, and inspire associates to participate fully in creating, renewing, or revitalizing the organization.

  15. You have compassion for yourself and others.

  16. You replace blame with responsibility.

  17. You believe that people have positive intentions, even if associates' behavior appears to illustrate the opposite.

  18. You are committed to making a difference not only in your own life, but in the lives of your associates and society as a whole.

  19. You listen before speaking.

  20. You create an environment where feedback is expected and appreciated.

  21. You are not afraid to admit your mistakes.


People want to be valued, listened to, appreciated, respected, involved and connected.


I love this list. So much so that I'm going to print it out and keep it close by in my office.

It's going to be my manifesto for leading, because it serves as my north star. I can honestly say that with respect to each point above, I sometimes do and I sometimes don't. So much depends on how I'm feeling, how rested I am, how much work I have on my plate, the time of the day, the person I'm engaging with and the circumstances.

Numbers 13 and 17 might be my biggest points to work on and number 19 is a life long goal.

It's a good thing I love to learn, slip up and keep on learning.


P.s. I love how authenticity is threaded through heart centered leadership.


#leadership #leadsmartwithheart #leading #heartcentered #authentic #integrity



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