Leading from the Heart, and not from the Hurt


Leading from the heart is a sign of a healthy leader. Good leaders share many qualities. However, each leader has distinguishable characteristics of their abilities. In my time as a leadership keynote speaker and as I’ve walked groups through workshops and leadership coaching, one familiar quality tends to arise among solid and talented leaders: they lead from the heart instead of from their hurt.

The best leaders understand the head and heart connection and can appeal to their employees on both levels. These leaders know the vision, have created it, and are passionate about it. Vision is communicated clearly over multiple platforms and mediums. Their strategies include removing barriers that increase buy-in, motivate action, and inspire people (employees and customers alike!). Leadership differs from management, but working harmoniously is the ideal business condition.

Management manages budgets, staffing, planning, and problem-solving. In contrast, leadership takes intricate systems in complex people groups and creates an environment of innovation, opportunities, and growth. A manager’s role is essentially to keep the status quo, but a leader keeps up with the rate of change and sets the pace. Leading, instead of managing, allows the leader to tap into their employee’s innovation, skills, and abilities and doesn’t feel threatened by new, out-of-the-box thinking.

Acting out of hurt

Anyone is capable of this style of leadership, and many times leaders emerge and begin to lead from the heart when they deal with their hurt. Acting out of hurt—whether past or present—tends to be done unconsciously and out of habit. But what a leader does with their pain directly connects to their leadership abilities.

A leader who leads with the heart is transparent, humble, and authentic, but these qualities are only available to people who are willing to examine and evaluate the inner workings of their hearts. If it’s not explored, there’s a high chance a leader will utilize their past pain as the lens through which they see the world and attempt to protect themselves and their company.

An unexamined evaluation of a leader’s past challenges usually ends up seeking to protect and control. As a result, they cultivate a lack of trust and an absence of engagement, creating an environment where employees walk on eggshells, unsure of where they stand. It’s easy to see how this environment would make for unhappy employees and low motivation.

Self-examination and reckoning

A leader who is leading from the heart and has gone through self-examination and reckoning will naturally be more humble and open to feedback and input. A leader like this naturally creates an environment where employees feel safe to take risks. Risk-taking is the breeding ground for innovation; failure and trial and error could spark something new. Great leaders shouldn’t hide their stories of struggle. If we can’t talk about our stories of struggle, it might be your first indication that these hurt areas are still current and affecting how we lead.

If a leader can’t own their stories, their stories will own them.

There are ways to develop into a leader who owns their story and leads from the heart instead of hurt. Therapy is one place to start. Meditation practices and conversations with trusted friends are another. Tom Flick Communications offers a variety of ways for leaders to sharpen their leadership skills through keynote speaking to the company or leadership team, workshops, and one-on-one coaching. So, reach out today to begin the journey of leading from the heart instead of the hurt.