Leading with Heart: A Guide to the Heart of Leadership.

Leading with heart is at the heart of leadership.

Lisa Danels writes in her new book “The Human Edge Advantage – Mastering the Art of Being All In”  that the brain of an average person processes 74GB of data daily. This is equal to watching 16 movies! As a result, we are challenged to do more with less and work harder, and we have less time to invest in relationships. Furthermore, our brain can go into overdrive and disconnect. Indeed, according to the 2021 global survey from Statista, globally,1/4 of people feel disconnected and lonely.

As a leader, your expertise, technical skills, and strategic thinking are crucial, but more is needed. Conversely, human-centered leadership transcends the realm of intellect and enters the land of the heart. Notably, this is about empathy, emotional agility, and the capacity to connect more deeply.

Today, we explore the immense potential of heart. Let’s have a look at the heart of the matter!

The Heart of Leadership

Why should leaders use their hearts? The answer lies in the essence of leadership itself.  On the whole, leadership is about directing, connecting, influencing, inspiring, and motivating. And these can only be achieved with tapping into the emotional sphere.

When you lead with your heart, you create a sense of trust and deep connection that appeals to your team. Thus you show them you are not just a boss but a someone understands their struggles, hopes, and emotions. Isn’t it true that we all yearn for such connection?

So, what does it mean “leading with heart”?

To lead with heart means using compassion, understanding, and authenticity. It means being emotionally agile and navigating your team’s emotions with resilience. Most importantly, it is about being empathetic and understand and share the feelings of others.

Consider this and ask yourself:

  • How much more motivated would you be if your leader truly understood you?
  • How much more would you achieve if your leader navigated the complexities of leadership with emotional intelligence and agility?

Research has shown that organizations led by heart-centered leaders have higher employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity levels. These are not just numbers but a testament to the transformative potential of leading with heart.

Leading with heart is not just about personal growth: It’s about breaking down barriers, building bridges, and inspiring your team. In particular, there are two key ingredients for leading with your heart: empathy and emotional agility. Let’s have a closer look at them!

Leading with Heart through the Power of Empathy

Empathy is often thought as feeling sorry for someone. Conversely, this is the definition of sympathy, which keeps people entrenched in their own pain or victim behavior. In reality, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In practice, empathy is about stepping into another person’s shoes and see the world from their perspective.

As a leader, empathy allows you to understand your team members’ motivations, fears, and challenges. This understanding enables you to to foster a culture of respect and collaboration. As a result you will create an environment where everyone feels valued, and supported.

How can you incorporate more empathy into your leadership approach?

Successful leaders who have harnessed the power of empathy. For instance, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has often spoken about the importance of empathy in his leadership approach). Indeed, he attributes much of Microsoft’s recent success to a culture that values and promotes empathy.

Leading with empathy isn’t just a nice-to-have: it’s a must-have.  Indeed, it’s a powerful tool to boost your team’s performance, and, ultimately, drive organizational success. So, leader, I urge you to take a moment to reflect. How can you incorporate more empathy into your leadership approach?

Emotional Agility: The Key to Resilience

Emotional agility is the ability to navigate your and others’ emotions. It involves recognizing and accepting emotions, understanding their source, and using this knowledge to guide your actions.

With emotional agility, you can lead your team through challenges and changes with resilience. Furthermore, you can create a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their emotions.

Emotional agility, a concept introduced by psychologists (Susan David and Christina Congleton in 2013), is a transformative, science-backed approach to navigating life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clarity, and an open mind. In the realm of leadership, emotional agility serves as an essential tool that can help leaders effectively manage complexities and challenges.

According to David and Congleton, emotional agility involves four key steps: showing up to your emotions, stepping out of them, walking your why, and moving on. Hence, this process encourages leaders to face their thoughts and emotions head-on,  and make changes or maintain behaviors which are based on emotional insights.

Leading with Heart, Empathy, and Emotional Agility

We’ve established the importance of leading with your heart, empathy, and emotional agility. Therefore, we can now discuss how to leverage them effectively in 5 steps.

1. Lead with your heart by Cultivating Self-Awareness.

Self-awareness relates to the understanding of your own emotions and how they impact your actions. Furthermore, it concerns reflecting on your experiences, responses, and triggers. Ultimately, the journey to understanding others begins with understanding oneself.

Start with reflection. Take a moment for introspection. What were your triumphs and challenges? What triggered certain emotional responses? When practiced daily introspection can reveal patterns in your thoughts and behaviours.

Next, seek feedback. Notably, constructive criticism can provide valuable insights into your blind spots. Don’t shy away from it; embrace it. Remember, growth happens outside of our comfort zones.

Practice mindfulness. Being present in the moment allows you to observe your feelings and reactions. It’s a powerful tool that can help you understand yourself better As a result you will improve your decision-making, build better relationships, and achieve greater success.

2. Practice Active Listening for Leading with Heart

Show interest in what your team say, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Indeed, listening is not just about hearing; it’s about understanding. Therefore, active listening is not merely about being quiet while the other person talks, it’s about fully engaging, understanding, and responding. Ultimately, this is a powerful tool that can enhance your relationships, build trust, and drive success.

So, how do you master this skill?

  • Give your full attention. In our  world, distractions are rife, but can you afford to let them come between you and effective communication?
  • Next, show that you’re engaged. Nodding, eye contact, and using verbal affirmations like “I understand” or “please go on” can make the difference.
  • Don’t just listen – respond. Paraphrase what you’ve heard to demonstrate understanding. Ask questions to delve deeper.

3. Validate Emotions.

Validate your team’s emotions. This simple act can make them feel heard. Eventually, you will be surprised about how the simple validation of others emotions can be transformative.

  • Identify your feelings. Then, affirm that it’s okay to feel this way. Remember, there are no ‘wrong’ emotions. How does this work on others?
  • Listen actively. Can you hear beyond the words to the emotions behind them?
  • Acknowledge feelings. Use empathetic language like, “I understand why you’d feel that way.” Indeed, this can impact the quality of your interactions.
  • Moreover, avoid judgment. Remember, validation is about acceptance, not agreement. Can you set aside your own perspective to truly validate theirs?
  • Finally, respond appropriately. Sometimes, this you can offer advice and solutions, but often, you can rather provide comfort and understanding. As a result, the other person will know that they have been heard.

Validate your team’s emotions. This simple act can make them feel heard.

4. Lead with Vulnerability.

Don’t shy away from showing your human side. In practice, you want to open-up, showing your authentic self, and creating a space for others to do the same. But how can you harness this transformative tool?

  • First, cultivate self-awareness. Can you identify and accept your strengths as well as your weaknesses? This level of self-honesty is the cornerstone of vulnerability.
  • Next, communicate openly. Are you sharing your thoughts and feelings in a candid manner? Remember, the goal is not to garner sympathy, but to foster understanding and connection.
  • Embrace failure. Are you viewing setbacks as learning opportunities rather than defeats? By doing so, you’re demonstrating resilience and promoting a growth mindset.
  • And finally, seek feedback. Are you open to the perspectives of others? This shows your commitment to continuous improvement and can inspire others to do the same.

5. Be Responsive for Leading with Heart.

Use your understanding of your team’s emotions to guide your actions. Then, be responsive to their needs and concerns. After all, isn’t leadership about serving others? But how do you cultivate this essential skill?

  • Practice active listening. Are you truly hearing your team’s ideas, concerns, and aspirations? Your team’s input is invaluable.
  • Encourage open communication. Are you providing a safe space for dialogue? As a matter of fact, this fosters trust and collaboration, key elements of a high-performing team.
  • Demonstrate empathy. Can you understand and share the feelings of your team? This is key to building strong relationships.
  • Finally, act decisively. Are you providing clear direction and making informed decisions? This shows your team that you value their contributions and are committed to their success.

Lead with your heart.

In conclusion, leading with your heart, empathy, and emotional agility is is a must-have skill. Altogether, by incorporating these elements into your leadership style you can inspire and motivate your team. Furthermore you will cultivate personal growth, leadership, and organizational success. So, are you ready to lead with your heart?


  • Danels, L. (2023). The Human Edge Advantage: Mastering the Art of Being All In.
  • George, J. M. (2000). Emotions and Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence. Human Relations, 53(8), 1027–1055.
  • Goleman, D. (1998). What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review.
  • David, S., & Congleton, C. (2013). Emotional Agility. Harvard Business Review.

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