LEAD FROM THE HEART was required reading for my “Principles of Management” class in college. It’s a timely book for instructing the next generation of managers.
This book explains how job satisfaction and employee engagement have been steadily declining over the last 22+ years, so that more than half of all workers in the U.S. now hate their jobs. The author, Mark Crowley, wrote: “Studies prove that our traditional leadership model has reached the end of its effectiveness. Workers across the country have grown widely disengaged and disheartened and American productivity is being greatly undermined as a result” (p. 11). In his book, Crowley proposes what to do about this dilemma. It says right on the back cover: “21st-century employees need to feel valued, respected, developed, and cared for. Their work has to matter.” Which makes sense, because people’s emotions are real, and disregarding their feelings has real consequences. So if you want to get the most out of your employees, it pays to be nice to them. Leading from the heart produces employees who are more loyal, engaged, and productive.
Crowley explains: “Leading with any amount of heart flies in the face of our collective belief that the heart acts like kryptonite in business. We associate the heart in the workplace as being soft, sentimental, and antithetical to driving profit” (p. xiv). However, this book shows how it’s the traditional way of managing employees that is actually detrimental to productivity. Consider the employee’s perspective – they might describe a typical authoritarian boss as hard-hearted, heartless, or cold-blooded. Is it a coincidence that all of these terms have to do with the heart? I don’t think so – the underlying message is that the heart is the vital part. Some world-class companies have already caught on to this concept. If you check the lists of “Best Companies to Work For,” you will find that SAS, Zappos, Google, etc. place a great deal of emphasis on employee engagement and satisfaction. First-rate CEOs seem to instinctively follow the Golden Rule, which says: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” It could also mean that they naturally “lead from the heart.”
More than just a leadership how-to guide, LEAD FROM THE HEART relates the author’s personal journey, telling how his childhood experiences shaped his managerial abilities. He eventually arrived at an epiphany: “I had brought heart into leadership” (p. xix). Crowley backs up the points he makes with references to published research and anecdotal evidence to support his views. The book’s conclusion is particularly compelling as a convincing example of the good that comes with leading from the heart. It reinforces the idea that “long after you can remember the actual work or the targets you met along the way, what’s sustained in your memory is the effect you had on people’s lives. By this one measure, above all others, you’ll know the true impact you had as a leader” (p. 137).
This book is an easy and enjoyable read. It’s suitable for managers, leaders, coaches, teachers, and mentors of any kind, not just in business, as all authority figures would do well to lead from the heart.