Heart-led leadership : what does this mean?

In business — and in life — we have increasingly lived in our heads, operated from our conceptual intellectual mind. This can of course be incredibly useful to turn ideas into things and practical application but it’s not the full picture and over-use of it has led to us being off-balance. Now there is a groundswell towards heart-led leadership. But what does this mean?


Anhata — Heart Chakra —this chakra signifies the state of freshness that appears when we are able to become detached and to look at the different and apparently contradictory experiences of life with a state of openness. Photo credit https://theyogahub.ie/open-your-heart-chakra/

I was working with a client the other day and a theme came out of the session. We’d talked about organisational purpose, culture development, HR policies and leadership of self. The theme that emerged through all of it was that — unless underpinned by heart — none of them would get traction.

An organisation without a heart-led purpose will be blown by the wind, attracted by bright and shiny deals that may or may not be successful. They might strike lucky but, if there’s no heart behind it, success won’t last as the cracks start to show in relationships founded only on profit. A race to the bottom. Soulless. Unfulfilling.

A culture development programme that puts slides, swings and beanbags as the primary activity of creating a great culture is like putting the cart before the horse. All that you get is the same culture, but now with slides, swings and beanbags (and less money for the privilege).

Policies that tick the boxes of the law and cover every possible scenario where it’s believed someone could (allegedly) take the p&%* will suck the soul out of employees and suck the humanity out of leaders who just follow the rules, follow the process, no part of their ‘being’ engaged beyond the linear, intellectual thought process of “you did X so now I do Y”.

And leadership of self without heart means believing the intellect is all there is and all that matters. It means dividing, separating, comparing and judging. Seeking for personal gain more than collective progress. It means applying the theories of good leadership logically without believing they matter : repeat after me : “good leaders listen”, “good leaders delegate and empower”. This will only take you so far. Leadership ‘done’ as a strategy will be seen through as inauthentic or will falter in consistency because of forgetting how you’re ‘supposed to be’. It’s just words. As though working from a script like a bored telesales operator. And it’s exhausting, pedaling hard through the day, trying to remember the mask you’re meant to wear.

Life is about heart. Leadership is about heart. Great culture and organisational success are about heart. For strong, authentic, balanced progress heart must be the foundation stone.

Why is this so important?

Everything on earth is ‘made’ of energy. Including us. And energy, as seen via the ongoing exploration of quantum physics, is made of nothing. No ‘thing’ can be found as we dig further past protons and electrons into quarks and qubits.

This nothingness from which everything springs is the true flow of life. The formless, from which all possibilities are created.

As we take a step away from that in human form, already some of the flow is lost. Some of the fluidity has become restricted in the physical blocks we’re built from. Some of the chaos and randomness has been tamed. But aliveness still felt. Connection to the energy from which we came still felt. This is the domain of the heart. The heart from which, it’s now known, more neurological information flows from it to our brains than the other way around.

And so to that next step further away, into our intellectual mind, where concepts and theories, rules and objects reign supreme. Here we lose more fluidity. We become more rigid and restrained. More linear. Less alive. More limited. Less connected. The domain of the head.

This is where so many people live. In this last place. It’s from here that all that is known is to follow the pre-determined path — or one that looks pretty damn similar to it : “give me the instructions and I’ll follow them”, “tell me what society says I should do and I’ll do that”, “tell me what Google are doing and we’ll copy that”.

When we start here, in the intellectual, it’s all back-to-front. Trying to manufacture unique brilliance from an offline system that only has access to the hard drive of existing knowledge. No life, no energy, no uniqueness, no heart.

So how do we lead from our heart?

All that is needed is to reconnect.

Your heart — physical, emotional, energetic — none of it ever went anywhere. It just got hidden under the piles of rules and policies — external and internal. We just got too far away from it to hear it calling us back. And we stopped believing it had a place in business.

Reconnecting to it can take many forms but at the very least it’s paying attention to it.

Noticing when ideas appear — where do they come from?

Noticing when you’re in flow — where did ‘you’ go in that time?

Noticing when you’re in connection with others — notice the feeling and what gets created.

Noticing the natural flow of things from formless to heart to head and the aliveness, freshness and fulfillment that’s felt in that.

Noticing the opposite and the deadness, the stale taste, the disconnection, the internal dissonance.

Once you strip away the layers of linearity, the beautiful freedom of your heart comes through. You fall back, as close as you can get, to the ‘no thing’ which is all we are. You can access the multitude of possibilities that exist there and bring these forward into the form of words, actions, ideas and objects. Words, actions, ideas and objects that are now pulsing with heart energy, grounded in authenticity and uniqueness. Perfect for this moment now.

Go explore! Uncover your heart.

With love, Helen

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