The traditional model of leadership has been based on knowledge, on right answers, on “the head”, with all that it encompasses. The vision, analysis, solution finding, finances, numbers, performance indicators, true and false. This traditional approach is very limited to face our actual volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. How are we to move away from an old, traditional model, based on expertise, toward a new model, based on context? A new model which generates involvement, clear “alignment” and an intuitive view of the team, where relationships matter. How does one embrace a new leadership model?
Leading with head, heart and gut: the change in corporate culture
Leading with head, heart and gut characterizes the change in corporate culture needed to move away from the traditional ”top-down” leadership approach. This approach which was highly valued in the past, still provides reassurance today. Leaders have generally been successful largely because of this “top-down” approach associated to their expertise and problem-solving abilities.
Leading with head, heart and gut: an invitation to be complete and more adapted
Although we still need our heads, it must be used in a more limited way. Stripping leaders of their intelligence is not the goal, after all! To lead with the head, we must understand, reason, establish action plans, consider several options to make a decision, evaluate the effects of our approaches and measure the achievement of our objectives.
In our VUCA environment, it is impossible to have an answer for everything. Our job is to understand the context, mobilize the right people for the job, and trigger the right processes so that appropriate solutions emerge. The introduction of contextual leadership allows us to shift from the power of the right response to the power of the right process. To do so, we need to use our head, our heart, and our gut in equal proportions.
I interviewed Françoise Lyon, President & Managing Partner at DGC Capital on this topic. She says: ‘’ True leadership is a very holistic thing, it’s the head, the heart and the gut. If we don’t stop being intellectual in our way of being strategic, guiding and leading people, we are going straight for the abyss. To really tap into people and get them moving and going when you have the privilege of being a leader, you do have to tap into all 3 (head, heart and guts).’’
How do we manage with heart?
To manage with the heart is fundamentally getting closer to people, communicating person to person. It stems from a desire to help people develop and flourish.
As a leader, here are some ways to manage with heart:
- Manage based on your values;
- Take an interest in your employees and colleagues in an open and sincere way;
- When discussing their development, ask your employees what goals they want to achieve in terms of their personal and professional lives;
- Consider emotions (your own and others’) when making a decision;
- Gauge the ambient climate and the mood of our team every morning.
Françoise considers the heart ‘’as the whole compassion and caring part’’. She adds: ‘’If you want to be a true leader, you have to care about the people that you are leading and that means accepting them as a whole package’’.
How do we manage with gut?
The notion of courage denotes from the ability to address everything that needs to be tackled and to make “difficult” decisions, when needed, as long as they are for the good of the organization. Courage means challenging the status quo, exposing oneself to risk, and being vulnerable. It also means to give feedback, to be willing to have open discussions, to ensure that everyone has everything they need to succeed, and to want to find solutions together.
Brené Brown says ‘’courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen’’. What does it mean to you?
As a leader, here are some ways to manage with gut:
- Give candid feedback, even on sensitive issues;
- Ask yourselves if you are saying everything that needs to be said; addressing “the right person at the right time”;
- Work on how to say things in a way that preserves everyone’s dignity;
- Be prepared for the other’s emotions;
- Question the status quo when you think there is a better way;
- Admit to your team that you don’t have all the answers, but that you will not give up.
Leaders are expected to have the courage and make the right decisions, even when it is difficult. Courage is not a luxury; it is a prerequisite! It is the gateway to a corporate culture that encourages challenging the status quo and innovation. In a VUCA environment, we can no longer apply old recipes to a new problem. We may be inspired by the past, but the context forces us to constantly renew our perspective on situations and issues.
In her interview, Françoise adds that ‘’gut is there to give you signals when things are going off track or something is not right and you have to listen to that, which is part of our intuition’’.
A culture of innovation, growth and agility requires contextual leadership that appeals as much to the head as it does to the heart and gut. Exploiting these three resources is a business essential that delivers positive results for you as a manager as well as for the growth of your employees and for the success of your organization.
So, how traditional is your leadership and how well is it adapted to the corporate context? How are you leading with your head, your heart and your gut?
As always, I invite you to be inspired and inspire
Executive Coach, Founder of o2coaching, Author and Speaker