The distinction is whether you lead with your head, heart, or hands.
Leadership is one of the most studied and written-about topics in the business world. But I recently came across an exciting new concept that adds an interesting new wrinkle to the subject: defining leadership style. What if I changed the question and asked you instead: Do you lead with your head, heart, or hands?
Let me explain.
Leading With Your Head
People who lead with their heads tend to be very intellectual and strategic. These folks are good at simplifying complexity and generating ideas and answers anyone can comprehend. Head leaders also lead with compelling visions they can create with the help of their mental muscles.
On the other hand, head leaders may not always be the best doers or even the most compassionate human beings. They also may lack the follow-through to ensure their ideas are executed and followed through on. But without a head leader, many organizations can struggle to see the forest through the trees, as the old saw goes.
A contemporary example of a head leader might be Elon Musk. He’s brilliant and visionary — he’s helped create leading finance, electric vehicle, and space travel companies. He’s almost single-handedly shifted how we think about our planet — and the potential for visiting others like Mars. But he’s also not someone who’s down in the weeds of operations or someone who’s known as a “people person.”
Leading With Your Heart
Those who lead with their hearts are all about their people. They genuinely enjoy and care for the people they work with. These are the types of leaders who garner tremendous loyalty from the people who work for them. They are also highly effective at motivating and engaging their teams to chase visionary goals they admittedly might not have created themselves. But their ability to build cohesion within a team is a superpower.
The late Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, comes to mind as a heart leader. While he was undoubtedly a sharp intellectual with an eye for operations, his secret sauce was that he genuinely cared for people with a passion. As a result, he created a culture built on having fun that influences how the airline continues to operate to this day.
Leading With Your Hands
People who lead with their hands are the folks who like to get things done. These are the kinds of people who take things into their own hands and help ensure the trains run on time. This leader tends to excel in cultures where results are valued and prized. They are the people who come alive at the opportunity to dig into the details, get their hands dirty, and help ensure everyone has accountability for the results.
One of the best examples of a hands-on leader that comes to mind is Sam Walton, the late founder of Walmart. The stories of Sam’s attention to detail are epic. He knew the financial performance of every store. He also knew the name of every person who worked for Walmart. Sam was also known to unload trucks and stock shelves–setting a rapid pace that even his best employees had difficulty keeping up with. Sam led through accountability and results–and he built one of the most successful companies of all time as a result.
What’s Your Style?
So, when you think about your leadership style, whose resonates most: Elon Musk’s, Herb Kelleher’s, or Sam Walton’s? Perhaps just as important, how do you think your leadership style matches your organization’s needs? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but it could help shed some light on any opportunities or challenges you might face as you tackle the future.