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Using Heart As Your Leadership Guide

Blanchard® company president Scott Blanchard believes that the human heart is the perfect visual image to use in remembering some important aspects of good leadership.

As Blanchard explains, “It’s a rich metaphor—and one that we have adopted as a part of our company’s tagline, The Heart of Human Achievement®.

“The beating heart of every company is made up of the combined beating hearts of all the people within that company. People’s heads and hands—their thinking and skills—are important, but what really differentiates a highly motivated and purposeful organization are people’s hearts. It’s the team with heart that wins. Heart is at the center of human achievement, individually and collectively.”


It’s always the leader.


A team with heart requires a leader that creates an environment where people can feel safe bringing their heart and soul to work, says Blanchard.

“Without openness, transparency, and vulnerability, people protect their hearts. This causes them to be less than fully engaged.

“Heart and human achievement require trust. We’ve always known trust was important, but we’ve learned if people don’t believe their leader has their back or is someone they can trust with their career and their psychological safety, they protect themselves.

“People want to work with a leader who has their best interests at heart, is invested in their growth and development, and is focused on meeting their needs—not a leader whose only focus is their own agenda.”

Blanchard’s research has found that when people know they have an others-focused leader, they come to work with five intentions:

  1. The intention to perform
  2. The intention to apply discretionary energy
  3. The intention to cooperate
  4. The intention to endorse their leader and organization
  5. The intention to stay and grow with the organization as long as they can

The heart of the matter is dialogue.


Blanchard also uses the heart image to remind leaders that the heart of the matter is dialogue.

“Everything we do as leaders is contained in our conversations. That’s our primary tool of influence. As leaders, we have to get to the heart of the matter. That means focusing the conversation on the things we want to talk about and determining people’s readiness for that conversation. We need to figure out where they are.”

Getting to the heart of the matter requires a set of skills, a mindset, and a process, says Blanchard.

“We teach servant leadership as the mindset and SLII® as the skill set. Servant leadership is a concept Robert Greenleaf first introduced in the 1970s that has continued to build a steady following and resonate with high-performing organizations ever since. In our company, we teach servant leadership as a dual focus on people and results. It’s an approach where everybody is pursuing the same vision; nobody is above it. It’s about how each person’s head, heart, hands, and habits bring that vision to life.

SLII® is our day-to-day approach to leadership development that has been taught and used by over five million managers worldwide since it debuted in 1985. It is based on the concept that leaders need to meet each person where they are by providing different levels of direction and support depending on the person’s development level on a specific task or goal. People new to a task need more direction than support. People who are discouraged need additional support. People who are experts at a task need new challenges. For leaders, SLII® is about tailoring our leadership style to the needs of our direct reports instead of expecting them to adapt to our style.


Heart brings strategy to life.


Blanchard also uses the anatomy of the human heart to remind leaders of what needs to be attended to in any company.

“Life, love, and leadership is about getting into somebody’s heart. The human heart is part muscle, part plumbing, and part electrical.

“In our Leadership-Profit Chain model, we teach that there are two types of leadership: strategic and operational. Strategic leadership is our vision and plans. Operational leadership is how we are going to get there—the day-to-day goal setting, coaching, and feedback that will get us from where we are today to where we want to go tomorrow.

“Strategic leadership is important, but operational leadership is the heart that breathes life into it—or causes it to fail or achieve less.”

Blanchard reminds leaders to keep in mind the three aspects of heart function.

“First, it’s electrical. The heart starts and then keeps beating all your life. It’s an electrical energy and rhythm that is with you until the end. This is the mission, vision, and values of your organization that keeps everyone energized. And if the current is interrupted, the rhythm gets all out of whack.

“Then there’s the plumbing. It’s important to keep the blood flowing. This is the day-to-day goal setting, coaching, and performance management that keep things moving along. If there’s a blockage—if something’s in the way—you can’t go around it. It causes problems.

“Finally, the heart is a muscle that is made stronger with use. This is about the training, development, and perseverance that’s required to become better at anything.”


Keep it beating.


Heart is important in every aspect of our lives including work, says Blanchard.

“People come to work with heads, hearts, habits, aspirations, and dreams they want to put to use. Keep that alive with good leadership.”


Would you like to learn more about a heart-centered approach to leadership? Join us for a free webinar!

Wednesday October 18, 2023

Engagement, retention, motivation, and productivity are created through high levels of vision, purpose, and passion. In this webinar, best-selling business author and executive Scott Blanchard will share research, strategies, and day-to-day best practices you can use to dramatically increase the levels of heart—energy and enthusiasm—in your organization.

As a participant, you will:

  • Explore the latest research on how trust, coaching, and an others-focused mindset impact employee intentions to stay with an organization, perform at a high level, and recommend the organization to others.
  • Take a deeper look at putting research-based leadership development strategies to work in your organization—including content creation and reinforcement strategies.
  • Learn day-to-day best practices of high-involvement goal setting, coaching, and performance management that you can put into use immediately.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to create a focused, high-energy corporate culture by equipping leaders with the heart skills needed to bring out the best in people. A heart-centered approach works—learn how!

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