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Leading in business from the heart

In business most people would agree that you need to lead with your head. However, I’ve come to realised that the businesses who make a difference are the ones that have learned to lead with the heart (without ignoring the head of course)! We now live in a world where many people are losing their heads, and leading with the heart is a great strategy to help you to keep yours. I think it’s a better (if deeper) path that a business can lock into and discover the courage to advance when others say hold.

2022, quite simply, is the year for the brave. When other businesses draw back, solidify their position and put their dreams on hold you don’t have to. History tells us that the brave win by making great choices even in trying times.

So, how do we lead with courage, advance the dream and take strides forward regardless of the circumstances? I believe it has a lot to do with heart set and a leader’s heart set is as important as their mindset.

In tough conditions it should not be circumstances that determine strategy, but the conviction behind why you started out. In fact, throughout these last few years, many of us have asked ourselves the question, “Is it worth it?” For those that are still here, a resounding “Yes” echoed back in our heart.

‘Heartset’ isn’t a fluffy, nice concept. Heartset, combined with the right mindset, is what makes champions, inspires comebacks and beats the odds.

If, heartset is important than why do we not hear about it? Why, is the heart left out? Why is talking about matters of the heart so taboo in traditional business? The answer is that far too many people buy into the lie that business isn’t personal. Real transformation comes when we align what’s in our heart to what we actually do and that IS personal. What’s more, our personal life includes our private life… it’s no coincidence that transparency is what today’s buyers are seeking. Rocked by scandal, dodgy dealings, and failed projects, the world is crying out for better and can’t find it. This moment in time is your time.    

When we see business as personal, business returns to its purest form. It’s about someone who cares enough to solves someone else’s problem. No longer do we just look for an opportunity to make money (you will if you solve problems), but we lead from that place of wanting to make a difference. This is where real business makes a comeback. It leads from the heart, aligning the mind to take the right actions and make a difference.

So, why in our experience is business not personal? Put simply, going personal is considered a weakness. It’s putting too many cards on the table and exposing your vulnerability. When someone is open, it challenges us – are we ready to be open as well? No more actors, masks, or faking. It says, “I’m here, I’m not perfect but I care enough to work with you to solve your problem.” In our humanity we connect and transition from a transactional relationship to a transformational one. We learn to play to each other’s strengths because we all need one another.

When we act, we are effectively hiding our true selves from the view of others. What if we could learn to deal with the stuff we carry and, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, acknowledge it and learn to lead from the heart.

Let’s be honest. We have all suffered personally (and in business) from attacks on our heart and we can either deal with these things or lead from them. Invariably, hurt people hurt people, and healed people heal people. If we are healed we are more likely to care more and that is a great place to be when solving challenges. We care about results.

The state of our hearts becomes compromised by the struggles of life and if we avoid facing up to what is actually going on our heart problem gets progressively worse and we become increasingly transactional. Living this way is not transformational and it will reinforce everything you actually hate about business and yourself. It’s possible to be suffering from a wounded heart, a stubborn heart, a hard heart, a bitter heart or even a broken heart.

If we choose not to deal with our heart issues we will eventually become defined by them. We’ll use business to hide from them and come to conclusions like – ‘I’m failing at home but at least I’ve got my business.’ We become disconnected from reality. It’s as if business is a stage where we all act and our families just might be the casualties of our actions.

Dealing with our hearts empowers our businesses and gets us to celebrate our families. We won’t get caught up in performance at the expense of true purpose.

So, what if you learned to deal with the issues of the heart so you could lead from it? Your personal triumphs could actually be the making of your business, the key to your story and your legacy. All of a sudden, you become authentic rather than fake because you dared to go there and care.

A damaged heart, left unchecked, will express itself as immaturity, insecurity and an inability to move beyond trivial matters to embrace the deeper things of life. The truth is, many people are trying to lead their businesses from a heart already in a stage of decline.

Level 1: Wounded Heart

When we experience an unjust criticism, an unfavourable reaction or someone on their off day, we have a choice. Ideally, we’d move on with a healthy mindset without losing perspective… but often this is impossible and it all begins to sink deeper into the heart.‘It’s only business’, just doesn’t cut it. You care and you want to solve the problem. Now, in the heart are the stories of all the other times you’ve been wounded, both in business and personal situations. The scars have a story to tell, making us question our true identity, as well as the ability we were born with, and our capacity to continue.

Level 2. Stubborn Heart

You begin to lead with no, not yes. You become fearful about promising anything. You fight your corner, but you are on the defensive. The battle becomes more important than the war that you face. You want to be right and you’ll argue your position, because your position defines you. The stubborn heart becomes immovable because if you concede it’s like showing your weakness. A stubborn heart starts to lose clarity, hindering communication and damaging your confidence because, rather than solving a problem, you are now about proving others wrong. Your momentum begins to stall…

Level 3. Hard Heart

We forget to care. We have been beaten down far too many times and we become cynical. It’s where we give up and we transition from rejection to protection. When reminded of similar conversations and situations the levels of anxiety increase to critical levels. We do the job but our heart and soul is no longer in it. Our communication becomes mechanical. We transition to caring only about the numbers and not about the relationships. A hard heart only sees profit as the key measure of success and if that means cutting staff, then so be it. Relationships are compromised and behaviour excused.

Level 4. Bitter Heart

You no longer enjoy life. You are beginning to despise your role and think that a change of scenery will change the circumstances. You go from pursing victory to becoming the victim. You become a quitter, and that makes you even more bitter. Why? Because you hate failure. It hurts too much to deal with what’s going on inside and even more to take responsibility. Decisions are driven by circumstance and humour turns cynical – after all, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. No one understands and no one can help. You are alone, and well, that’s life, better get on with it.

Level 5: Broken Heart

Eventually, the heart is broken and loses the ability to carry purpose, powerless to overcome and your true potential locked. Life once had meaning and now it feels empty. You become a shadow of your former self. You have hit rock bottom. You are known more for the fights you cause than the cause you champion. A broken heart is a tragedy, and leads to broken dreams, depression and in some cases suicide. It’s shocking when we read about it, but when we look at the whole journey, from the early stages, everyone one of us can identify with it.

Another way:

Leading from the heart is a brave thing to do. Today we need people who are living out their true purpose and that can only be done from the heart.

It’s still possible to lead as an entrepreneur or business owner with a damaged heart only it makes the journey very hard. People lose faith in you and begin to fear you and business becomes personal for all the wrong reasons.

So, what is the way back? How do we climb out of the abyss or stop ourselves from going on that journey of decline at all?

The good news…

Level 1: Brave Heart

The quickest route out is to become brave, take responsibility and face up to the need for change. We often see a brave heart as the ultimate destination, but a brave heart looks at its brokenness and is honest enough to admit that it’s not all about others, change starts with me. The bravest step is to own what you’ve done wrong and forgive yourself.

Level 2: Better Heart

The better heart makes small steps towards doing better, rather than remaining bitter. The better heart begins to climb out of the poison to become the antidote to situations. It looks to smooth things over and it doesn’t have to win every battle. The better heart looks to take feedback on board. It gets invited into difficult situations to help solve them, leading from a place of forgiving others and embracing differences.

Level 3: Soft Heart

A soft heart is humble and leaves the right impression with heartfelt words, deeds and actions. The soft heart is attractive to the right people and it isn’t interested in competing. This heart beats more for making an impact than increasing its income. The soft heart gets heard above the noise and makes relationships. It collects great people and builds amazing networks. The soft heart has a heart to help, even at its own expense, because legacy is the currency.

Level 4: Healed Heart

The healed heart has capacity that a hurt one doesn’t. It wants to heal others. When it enters an environment it changes the conversation to a positive one. Its desire is for collaboration above competition. Healed hearts have a capacity for others, inspiring and re-firing others from a place of disappointment and disillusionment to a place of purpose, power, and potential. The healed heart refuses to play the victim and helps others out of their situation, using business as a vehicle for change. Restoring confidence is a hallmark of its every interaction.

Level 5: Passionate Heart

This is the heart that captures others for a positive cause. The passion is contagious. These people transform the world in which they live and bring others along to find their place in life. They celebrate other people’s gifts and give them the freedom of expression. They are not threatened, they become a threat to the evil around us. They dispel darkness and present a vivid light on the darkest of days! The passionate heart burns bright and is a force for good.

The right heartset makes for a business that cares.

When we allow are hearts to be restored, we can make business personal and lead from a place of authenticity. This is what turns business into a cause and a movement and creates a lasting legacy. We are not scared to share our life because we made peace with the bad and transformed losses into lessons.

Today’s employees are looking for purpose driven companies with leaders prepared to lead from the heart, not just the head. The head will always chase income at the expense of impact and regard the team as a human ‘resource’. Conversely, the heart will always lead with impact and the expense is absolutely worth it. The team are world changers!

2022 is calling us to lead with our hearts, if we are brave enough to deal with them…

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