Tuesday, March 20, 2012

With Your Head, Not Your Heart

There is an old saw, particularly noteworthy as we prepare for the NCAA Sweet 16, that you should always ‘bet with your head, not your heart.’ There is a similar adjunct for leadership, and that is that you need to make decisions with your head, not your heart.

I talk a good deal about passion and its importance in leading and bringing about change. A leader with no real passion is either a poor leader or a negative one.* Real leaders abound in passion and they communicate that to their followers and teammates every day.

But when it comes to making decisions, you have to lead with your head, not your heart. Decision-making is a skill developed over time, through experience in leading and making decisions, and then the conscious and deliberate process of considering your decisions, evaluating the results of your decisions, and determining what decisions worked and why they worked, what decisions didn’t work and why they didn’t work, and what decisions had no effect at all, and why they didn’t. This is a process that requires crisp, clinical analysis and evaluation, but it does improve decision-making over time – dramatically.

Good decisions in difficult situations requires reflection – even if it is only brief reflection – and that means coldly evaluating the situation through the lens of your experiences and your intellect and then making your decision – coldly, as dispassionately as you can.

So remember, bring your passion to the game, but make your decisions coldly and analytically

* Negative leaders (the term is taken from the great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer) refers to leaders who have all the skills and all the trappings of a great leader, but who, in the end, focus on self, who build personality cults and fanatical followers, not teammates, who place self above the goal. They may have great passion, but it is either directed toward themselves, or it is an act (or both). These people, if they have the skills to be leaders, will develop into evil people; Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot are all examples of negative leaders.


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