8 Ways To Lead With ‘Heart’

What do all the greatest leaders have in common? They lead with ‘heart’. 

By ‘heart’, I’m talking about the traits we associate with the ubiquitous love muscle – including passion, conviction, emotion, loyalty and commitment. Leading with ‘heart’ is the essence of truly exceptional leadership. 

Here are 8 ways exceptional leaders lead with heart:-

1. They love their teams. Not in a ‘touchy-feely’, sexualised or trivialised manner, but by ensuring their default position is positive regard and possibility for those they lead. 

2. They discover, extract and develop individual strengths. The most effective leaders will actively seek out, recognise and nurture the unique gifts of each and every team member.

3. They take risks. Awesome leaders will put their backs on the line for the greater good. They will stand by what they believe in, at all costs (easier said than done).

4. They are values-driven. The best leaders are deeply attuned to their own personal values and lead by those every day, in every way.

5. They are intimately connected to purpose – their own, the team’s and the organisation’s. Leaders who lead with ‘heart’ know, to the core of their being, why they are showing up every day.

6. They are visionaries. They understand they are here for a purpose that is higher than the bottom line or bland quantitative metrics. They know their role is to make the world a better place. To serve, not get.

7. They are vulnerable at times. They are comfortable with the discomfort of being vulnerable.

8. They are masters at listening and being fully present.

Perhaps most importantly, the best leaders lead with their heart by embodying love and compassion.

Love and compassion may not be concepts traditionally associated with leadership in businesses, but they are most undoubtedly cornerstones of awe-inspiring leadership within today’s organisations.

Humberto Maturana, the noted Chilean biologist and philosopher, once said – “love is the only human emotion that consistently generates the most productive and intelligent actions.”  

I, for one, think that is worth cultivating if we want our organisations and people to achieve all they are capable of.

The greatest leaders lead with heart. The question is, do YOU? 


  1. Penny Hunt on June 28, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Lovely to read this. There’s a lot of ‘heart hiding’ around in business, isn’t there? I wonder too whether this links to really allowing oneself to feel ..’alive’? I had a go at trying to describe this …
    Thank you for such helpful tips.

    • Suzi McAlpine on June 28, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Penny, Thanks for your comment. I agree – leading with heart enables people and businesses to feel ‘alive’ on so many levels. I enjoyed reading your post – keep up the great work with your blog!

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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