Book Review: The Heart Led Leader by Tommy Spaulding

HeartledleaderTommy Spaulding’s book Heart-Led Leader: How Living and Leading from the Heart Will Change Your Organization and Your Life  adds to the growing body of knowledge and supporting evidence for ‘Servant Leadership’.  A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities they work with, put the needs of others first and help people develop and perform to their highest level.  A heart led leader is a natural extension of that concept and Spaulding explores that enhancement fully in this new book.

Filled with examples of how the heart led approach has yielded benefit, you can’t help but have a positive feeling when reading each case study.  Stories of overcoming both personal and professional adversity are peppered with how the heart led approach has produced positive outcomes.  What is treated a little lightly in the book is an element of contrast.  A situation where the heart led approach failed to deliver.

As a servant styled leader myself I know that in some cases people will take advantage of the perceived leniency and it would have been useful to see occasions where the approach failed to deliver the outcomes expected. But it is the exception that proves the rule.

A key rule in all leadership is what one of Spaulding’s clients terms Rule 45, and is extracted from their 60 or so phrases to live by.

Rule 45 is ‘Do right’.  Sounds simple and most profound things are, but Rule 45 is frequently a challenging rule to follow.  ‘Right’ can often look to be counter to your personal or professional perceptions but, for the Heart Led leader, it is critical to do exactly that.  Use a cool head and a warm heart and look at what is the right action for you and for others in the long term.

To help you develop your own style of heart led leadership, Spaulding offers an 18 step (or inch) journey and guidelines / rules to apply.  Each rule (or inch step) is summaries at the end of each chapter and act as memory hooks to revisit time and again.  Key rules for me include:

–          Purpose – Helping people connect to a higher or shared purpose is the true act of a leader.  Finding that purpose is one of those key leadership challenges.

–          Character – The good leader must ‘choose the harder right than the easier wrong’. More easily written than achieved.

–          Self-Awareness – I recognised recently that when you are in Command of a team, there are few to give you honest feedback, you rarely hear a directly negative comment.  So personal awareness and insight are critical to developing as a leader.

–          Heart Led leaders act with empathy and there is increasing evidence that those who have empathy for others perform better in their professional and personal lives…not surprise there but worthy of highlighting!

For leaders that want to develop and who have recognised in themselves a style that is perhaps too autocratic, austere or harsh, Spaulding offers an alternative approach that I recommend you consider.

Engaging, entertaining and insightful, this book is well worth the read and one I will recommend to my junior leaders.  Similar in message to ‘Love is the Killer App’, this book illustrates the value of letting our better angels dictate how we lead and engage with others.
Dare to Aspire
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