Early in my career when I worked in retail, I learned a powerful lesson about leadership that still resonates as I begin my term as Toastmasters’ International President. I was given the opportunity to manage a retail location in Houston, Texas. The location was losing money every month, with very poor customer service scores. After six months and a lot of work on my part, the store was performing much better. Sales had increased almost 250%, the store went from losing 24,000 USD a month to making 50,000 USD a month in profits, and our customer service score was up 25%.
I felt great. I felt like I had really accomplished something significant … and I had. Then my regional manager came in. He told me that I was doing great—at half my job. He said I was doing lousy at the other half.
What he was talking about was the difference between head-led leadership, where you focus on results, and heart-led leadership, where you focus on relationships and the well-being of your team. I was leading with my head, and he wanted me to lead with my heart.
The most successful leaders know to combine the two, determining when to focus on results and when to focus on the team dynamics.
According to Naz Beheshti in a recent Forbes article, head-driven leadership has a strong focus on goals and being disciplined. Heart-led leadership focuses on the team and building trust. As with any style of leadership, they both come with a set of advantages and challenges.
The reality is that you are best served by learning to do both. Results are important. They are a measuring stick that can help determine if the team is meeting its mission or not. The team members are equally important. I know I prefer to work on a team where there is trust, mutual respect, and effective team relationships. The most successful leaders know to combine the two, determining when to focus on results and when to focus on the team dynamics. They use their head to support their heart, but they start with their heart.
This interplay between heart-led and head-led leadership is vital during times of change. Because our world continues to evolve rapidly, the ability of leadership to successfully predict the future has been weakened. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the world changes further. Trust within the team is essential to receive the best outcomes.
Which style of leadership are you most comfortable with? Do you see yourself as results focused, or team focused? Would your team agree with you? I encourage you to explore these questions within your teams and remember to start with your heart.
Matt Kinsey, DTM
Matt Kinsey, DTM is the 2022—2023 International President of Toastmasters International. Learn more about him on the Board of Directors page.