How Do You Lead – With Your Head or Your Heart?

by | Sep 29, 2023 | Professional Growth

The art of leadership is adapting your leadership style to the situation you are facing. At times, we need to lead from our head focusing on reason and the facts. Other challenges require us to lead from our heart, understanding the emotions involved.

Head or heart – which source do you primarily rely on to connect and lead?

I understand we need to use both our heart and heart to lead, and thought my primary source was clear. I tested my assumption by reading a great new resource — Head & Heart – The Art of Modern Leadership by Dr. Kristin Ferguson. She opened my mind to rediscover how I relate to and lead others.

Dr. Ferguson has more than three decades of professional experience and has spent many years studying leadership and influence. She identifies eight attributes of effective leadership, and traces each behavior to either your head or heart:

The book encourages readers to understand their attributes, and how to integrate both head and heart to become a more effective leader. Dr. Ferguson offers “the key to mastering the art of being a modern leader is knowing what is needed and when.”

Complete this free assessment to determine your head v heart attributes — no more than ten minutes to complete. The assessment will provide your results, thoughts for an action plan, and access to additional resources.

Head & Heart Leader Scale™ | Kirstin Ferguson (

My results were not surprising for my highest scores. Humility and self-awareness have taken me years to develop, and I am a better leader today for the work I put in. My surprise was my lowest scores — I really thought my wisdom from years of experience, education, and diverse roles would be my primary source for relating to others. It was dead last.

This does not mean I am not wise. My inclination is to use humility and self-awareness to bridge my relationships. My next step is to better understand how I respond with my head and heart, and I encourage you to do the same.

Three keys to understanding your head and heart attributes:

  1. Being human and making hard leadership decisions are not mutually exclusive. We need both wisdom and empathy to effectively lead others.
  2. Build your head attributes through continuous learning, new experiences, and asking great questions.
  3. Build your heart attributes through active listening, affirming the voices of others, and deeper self-knowledge.

There are over 50,000 leadership books on Amazon, including one I authored, and sometimes it is hard to find a source that gives you a new perspective. I found this book to invite me to reflect on what it is like to be “on the other side of Todd,” and the impact of my head and heart responses. I encourage you to understand your attributes, and effectively apply them to be the leader your people expect you to be.

Leading Your Team

All of us work with people who can be disagreeable. They challenge us, sometimes in positive ways at times they drive us crazy. Author Adam Grant profiles Steve Jobs and his leadership experiences at Apple.

Persuading the Unpersuadable

Read to Lead

Leaders benefit from being active readers, long reads not just social media posts and news feeds. A deep read builds concentration, strengthens your intellectual capacity, and offers wisdom you can share. As you refresh or build your reading habit, diversify your experience — old, new, fiction, non-fiction, audio, hard cover, and e-readers.

My September 2023 favorites:

Daily Dad Devotional by Ryan Holliday
A great resource for fathers, grandfathers, and anyone with a special relationship with younger people. The author has a daily message based on parenting, teaching, encouraging, and many other subjects. I am thankful for this daily inspiration to improve the relationships in my life.

Returning Light by Robert Harris
A very reflective book whose author was a guide and caretaker on the island of Skellig Michael, one of Ireland’s most remote locations. He had this post for over thirty years and his observations about nature, particularly the impact of light, are captivating. I enjoy books that allow my mind to travel to interesting places I will never see.