Breaking Free

Welcome to Break Free Consulting


Vol 7, Issue 8

Head First to Heart First
May/June 2013

When I spoke at the PMI Northern Alberta Chapter’s Annual Conference last month, I had the opportunity to stop in and listen to Drew Dudley from Nuance Leadership. He started his session by asking the 200+ project managers in the room a simple question:

“How many of you, by a show of hands, are 100% completely and totally comfortable with calling yourself a leader?”

Out of the 200 certified project managers that were present, how many hands to you think went up? 200? 100? 50? No, you’d still be too high and lose both showcases (on The Price is Right) if those were your guesses. The total? About 20. Over 180 project managers who have gone through an extensive certification program don’t believe that they are leaders. Why is that? Why didn’t EVERYONE in the room raise their hands? What were they thinking?

Carl Jung’s Encounter

If you know me even a little bit, you know I rarely ask rhetorical questions even of myself. So I looked for the answers to those questions above. I came upon a story of Carl Jung the Swiss psychotherapist and psychiatrist who developed the archetypes that are used in most personality and behavioral profiles from Myers-Briggs to DISC.

In 1925, Carl Jung visited a tribe in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico where he encountered Chief Mountain Lake. Here is an excerpt from their conversation as described in his biography, Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul: An Illustrated Biography:

“See,” Chief Mountain Lake said, “how cruel the whites look… Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think they are mad.”

Jung asked him why he thought that all whites were mad and he replied, “They say they think with their heads.”

“Why of course. What do you think with?” Jung asked him in surprise.

“We think here,” Chief Mountain Lake said, while pointing to his heart.

Jung fell into a long meditation…. The Pueblo had drawn him a picture of the real white man. This Indian had struck our vulnerable spot, unveiled a truth to which we were blind…

Head Thinking

I share this story with you because when most folks think about the question of whether or not they are a leader, they use their heads instead of their hearts. What’s the difference?

Head thinking is fractured. It breaks things down in to bite size chunks and then compares those chunks to one another. Head thinking bases conclusions on data and an “either/or” mentality. It creates a complexity with rules and regulations that are often unnecessary. It divides people and things into groups and roles. Head thinking creates a need for contingency planning focused on “what ifs” that often never happen.

Please don’t misunderstand; head thinking has helped humankind make tremendous progress and advancements in our quality of life. It has given us the gifts of technology that allow us to control more of our time as we don’t spend our days simply trying to survive. However, we have relied on head thinking for generations and tend to overfocus or overvalue the thoughts that are derived from our interpretation of data. Head thinking narrows the perspectives from which we look at the world and often causes a lack of confidence and courage because of the fear that we are missing something. Where there is fear, there is no confidence.

Heart Thinking

What we need now is to shift to more HEART thinking. What is heart thinking? Heart thinking bases conclusions on the big picture and long-term creation of goodness and value. The heart thinks more in terms of “and” rather than “either/or”. It focuses on being present in the now and combines roles into a team. It is naturally more balanced because you’re not weighing separate pieces. Heart thinking provides you with deep-rooted certainty because you can know that you are creating value and goodness. Heart thinking broadens your perspective.

We need more heart thinking. You see evidence of this all around us. Don’t take my word for it; look at the recent management and leadership books.

In John Maxwell’s book, The 360 Degree Leader, he describes the 5 levels of leadership. At the bottom are Position, then Permission, then Production. These 3 are focused on head thinking. The highest 2 levels are People and Personhood which focus on the heart.

In Daniel Pink’s books, Drive and A Whole New Mind, he discusses why carrots and sticks and other manipulative, oh I mean motivational, techniques of the past no longer work. They are focused on head thinking. He says what motivates people today are “autonomy, mastery and purpose.” He writes that the coming Conceptual Age you need to complement reasoning (head thinking) with the 6 “Senses” (heart thinking)…

And take a look at our language… Which word, Head or Heart, best fits into these statements?

  • Put your ___________ and soul into it.
  • Home is where the ____________ is.
  • She is kind and light-__________ed.
  • Wear your ___________ on your sleeve.
  • Let’s get to the __________ of the matter.
  • I promise. I cross my ____________.

Some of those are pretty funny if you put your “head” where your “heart” should be.

“Are you a leader?”

So, what does this have to do with the leader question? Well, I wondered what those 180 project managers who didn’t raise their hands could’ve been thinking. My conclusion is that they were using their head thinking to come to their answer instead of their heart thinking.

With head thinking the answer to the question involves breaking down the components of leadership and then comparing each component that you possess to those components in others. What usually happens is that you compare your worst components to another’s best components and then conclude that you aren’t 100% sure and comfortable with calling yourself a leader.

What if those folks could close their eyes, take a deep breath, quiet their brains, and simply ask their hearts to answer the question? Would the answer be different? I believe that it would be for many of them.

What about you? How do you answer the question? Are 100% completely and totally comfortable with calling yourself a leader?

What would be different in your life and career if you put more of your heart into it?

After all, how do we make the biggest difference and have the greatest impact in this world by going head-to-head or HEART-to-HEART?

Learn to use your HEART thinking and put more of your HEART into your work and your life.

~Contact.FirstName~, when you can align more of who you are with what you do, you actually are able to do more. So often we hear our management say “Do more with less.” I want to encourage you to do more with more. You can do more when you use more of your gifts and talents.

How do you do that? Learn to get some of your narrow, “head thinking” perspectives out of your way by using more of your broadening, HEART thinking!

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Learn to LEAD with your HEART.

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 I would love to hear what you think about this edition of Breaking Free.  Please leave your comments below.



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