What weighs more – the heart or the brain?

My wife and I always enjoyed the early years of the TV show CSI – partly because they sometimes filmed scenes near our house in the Red Rock area of Las Vegas when we lived there back in 2000. Watching that show, you can learn a little more human biology than you might prefer to know. I remember a murder autopsy scene where I learned that the average human brain weights 40 ounces and the average human heart weighs ten ounces. (Please understand that these are only averages; experience bears out that individual results may vary!)

But when it comes to measuring the most influential factors in leadership, I think the scales are reversed. I have always said that people will follow a good leader over a cliff at least once, but—seriously—why do some executives engender such passionate loyalty and commitment from their organization, while others do not?

Ask people who clearly are following a leader; they will tell you—in various words and ways—that they give a lot more weight to heart than to head in making the decision to sign up and stay the course set by the leader in front of them.

Oddly, a lot of leaders will say they don’t trust their emotions in making a decision, that only facts matter. Yet, as humans, we do trust our emotions more than facts. We choose hobbies, spouses, careers, lifestyles and ambitions on the basis of “heart” (and then sometimes badly befuddle all that by over-thinking our decisions later.) We make decisions all the time based upon our “heart” and then rationalize them later with our heads. No one buys a sports car because of its engine specifications; they buy them because they speak to their inner devil. The most successful leaders will tell you that their beliefs—in themselves and in their purpose—propelled their careers and influence far more than any carefully constructed, logical roadmap.  Information informs, but heart drives.

So, what do we mean by “heart?” Over the next few weeks, I will dig into (yikes, not an autopsy, though) this elusive thing called “heart,” but here for now is my sense of why heart matters more than head in getting people to follow you.

The “heart” is that jumbled up set of experiences, aspirations, emotions and instincts that take on a greater reality than any facts. That sense of “heart” inside has gone through a lot of conscious and subconscious processing. It is pretty hardened concrete. It is our way of preserving and protecting our sense of self from everything outside that seeks to change us. It takes a long time and a lot of processing and filtering for new information to worm its way into that place; it is far better for leaders to to understand what is inside and connect to it rather than seek to over-ride it or ignore it. If your people see and hear your heart more than information, you simply stand a much greater chance of engaging them.

Essentially, leaders who get people to follow them are those who give us hope that what we have inside is safe and can come out and take on a reality.

The challenge, though, is that you cannot expect to grab their heart until you show your own. More on that in the weeks ahead.


About paulheagen

I am an executive coach, advisor and confidant who helps leaders better understand, refresh or redirect their purpose in their business and personal lives. Over my 35-year career as a corporate executive, communications consultant and trusted advisor, I have guided executives through “defining moments” – those unique times when the decisions they make, the words they speak, and the qualities they exhibit can influence not only the destiny of their organization but also their own lives and careers. When it comes to my clients and my life work, I am ferociously passionate and restlessly inquisitive about uncovering the unique dreams, vision and purpose that lead to exceptional leadership.
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