The H.E.A.R.T of Leadership

The H.E.A.R.T of Leadership

This above all:
To thine own self be true,
for it must follow as dost the night the day,
that canst not then be false to any man.

– Shakespeare (Hamlet) inspired by Socrates (Know thyself).

I think the very first tenet of Leadership is to know yourself first. The very quest of leadership is first of all an inner quest of self-discovery. Because the instrument of leadership is the self, mastery of the art of leadership comes from the mastery of the self.

The study of leadership isn’t about putting ’stuff’ or a whole lot of new information and techniques into ourselves, it’s about the bringing out or liberating the leader within. So what is leadership development? It’s about self-development – the bringing out of characteristics and wholesome values. It’s about what inspires self and others. It’s about what challenges. It’s about what gives competence. And therein lies the power to lead self and others.

The acronym HEART stands for the following concepts:

H = Habits
E = Excuses
A = Attitude
R = Role
T = Theatre

What are your habits? We all have some great habits and not-so-great habits. Which ones of these are slowing you down? Do you have habits of:

  • Procrastination
  • Being late
  • Poor meeting skills
  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Communicating poorly
  • Commanding all the time
  • Not speaking up and sharing


Being a leader is not easy. And acquiring better habits is a surefast way of moving ahead in your personal development towards leadership development.

So grab an A4 sized notebook. Open up to a blank page. Draw a line down the middle to make two columns. Be brutally frank and honest with yourself. On the left hand column, label it “Bad Habits” and label the right hand column “Good Habits”.

Now list all the habits that you have and place them into the appropriate column. In fact, if you have a spouse and teenage children (they’re really frank!) ask them what they think are your good habits and bad ones! Write those down.

What next? After you’ve done this, just pick out the worst bad habits and work on a self-improvement program. Live into a better habit, one day and one week at a time. Write it in your diary of daily things to do. Do it a step at a time. All good habits take time to settle into our neurological systems. The old habits die out as the new habits replaces them.

Ask yourself what excuses you have in life? Do you whine, moan and complain about how things are in the office? Do you complain about the conditions around you and about other things? Do you attribute your lack of performance to others and then make an excuse for poor performance?

Well, I mentioned that leadership starts with personal development, right? Okay, let’s have a look at an exercise program as an example. How many of you have a regular exercise program?

Now, if you do have an exercise program, ask yourself how well you keep up with the program? If you’re in the habit of excuses this exercise program could lend itself into a failure cycle. If it does, let me explain using these four deadly stages:

1. The first time you embark on the exercise program you’re enthusiastic about it and tell almost everybody about what a great body you’ll soon have!

2. After a while, you find that on some days, there’s a report overdue, or a business appointment that’s kept you later than expected, or it begins to rain. Then you excuse yourself from going to the gym to do your exercise. And done frequently enough, a litany of excuses begin.

3. Now you blame. You blame the late meetings. You blame the weather. You blame that your friend has now gone back on his word to give you a lift to the gym. You blame the boss for giving you a last minute assignment. Soon, you stop going to the gym.

4. Now it gets pretty serious. You enter into a failure phase in your exercise program. If you don’t break out of it, you’ll fall into this failure mode again and again. In fact, many do, and it’s called the classic failure cycle.

Excuses are deadly. Maybe even worse than illness.

As Shakespeare said, “Our doubts are traitors. They make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt”.

Don’t allow your excuses to rob you of your goals as leader.

Having the right attitude towards personal development and leadership development is crucial. Do you have an attitude of a know-it-all? Do you have an attitude that’s blaming? Are you condescending, patronizing, or even hypocritical?

Are you capable of walking your talk? Is it one rule for others, and another rule for yourself? Are you sarcastic? Do you put others down or are you uplifting? Do you belittle others, or do you be-big them? Are you capable of being a leader -ship or are you into boss-ship?

Examine your attitude or mindset. Change it to embrace the most empowering characteristics of great leaders.

Kouzes and Posner, the leading leadership educators in the world are authors of the best selling book on leadership. It’s called, The Leadership Challenge, and they have performed extensive surveys and collated statistics to show that the following 5 main practices or attitudes are the characteristics of great leaders:

Model The Way – Leaders find their voice by clarifying their personal values, express them in a style that’s their own, and set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

Inspire A Shared Vision – Leaders envision the future and enlist others in a common vision that encompasses shared aspirations.

Challenge the Process – Leaders search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, improve and grow.

Enable Others to Act – Leaders promote cooperative goals and build trust, strengthening others in the process.

Encourage The Heart – Leaders recognize excellent contributions and celebrate wins, values and victories by creating a spirit of community

Without a doubt, these are five of the best practices or attitudes that contribute towards the heart of leadership.

Leaders act out many roles. What roles do you act out as leader? Mentor? Inspirer? Teacher? Do you give clear guidelines and ensure that the people reporting to you are absolutely clear on their roles in the organisation?

Can you ask your people what are the goals that they’re supposed to be going for? And do you ensure that there is clear feedback on their progress? If not, how do you know that the real vision and goals are being achieved? If you don’t tell your people how they’re doing, or have systems in place to do so, how will you ever guide them towards their journey with precision?

Finally, how do you act on the stage of life – the theatre of our lives? Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

Now if you’re a leader, what’s your acting style? What does your performance as a leader show to others? Do they give you a standing ovation? Or do you sometimes get some rotten fruit thrown at you from the dark aisles from where the audience sits?

It’s not what you think you do as a leader that counts. It’s what your people perceive you to be doing. Thus, you must act in the best interests of all.

In summary, the HEART of Leadership is the central pump that delivers nutrients to all parts of our body. The good leader must have heart to deliver good, inspiring messages to all parts of the organisation. The leader must deliver inspiration and courage. From family to organizations to multi-national organizations, the HEART of Leadership, like man’s heart, must be kept in tip-top condition and must never stop beating for the good of all.

I wish you all the best, and trust that you have a healthy HEART of Leadership!

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