My website is called “Leadership from the heart.” It’s based on Psalm 78:72 speaking of King David’s leadership, “With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” Leadership is a combination of heart and hands; not either/or, but both/and. With this in mind, Dan Rockwell shares 5 ways to lead with a big heart.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


I’ve always admired leaders who handle heavy responsibility with heart.

Some leaders put on masks and lose themselves to the expectation of others. But leaders with heart bear the load of responsibility with steely resolve and compassion.

Reject the idea that you have to be a jerk to expect peak performance from others.

Doug Conant told me, “Be tough on standards and tender with people.”

5 ways to lead with a big heart:

Leadership from the Heart

#1. Show up to help more than to fix or correct.

“How might I help?” is better than, “You screwed up.”

#2. Open up more than close down.

You go further with vulnerability than defensiveness.

  1. Take a few deep breaths.
  2. Stop trying to make things go away.
  3. Step into the mess with an open heart.
  4. Acknowledge that you don’t know.
  5. Work to make SOMETHNG better but give up on making EVERYTHING better.
  6. Lock arms with another leader who goes into the mess with you.
  7. Explore options. Seek AN answer, not THE answer. A person with THE answer has a closed mind.

#3. Pursue positive opportunities more than preventing problems.

The leadership question is how do you create something, not how do you prevent something.

#4. Practice compassion.

Acknowledge the pain of imperfect people. Smart people do stupid things. Honest people deceive themselves. Self-justification results in arrogance.

An employee gets caught stealing.

Compassion and consequences aren’t mutually exclusive.

Compassion says:

  1. I’m so sorry this is happening.
  2. This must be embarrassing for you.
  3. We’re going to let you go.
  4. How can I help you move forward?

Compassion isn’t confirmation.

#5. Practice self-reflection.

In order to bring your best self you must know who you are.

What makes leading with heart difficult?

How might leaders develop big hearts?

Bonus material:

Why the Best Leaders Have a Big Heart (Kevin Eikenberry)

Becoming a Heart-Centered Leader (Skip Prichard)

Lead with your Heart, not just your Head (HBR)