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The Heart of a Leader

All I could think of as I lay on the hospital gurney was how much money this was going to cost me.

The doctor in the immediate care center immediately cared enough to send me to the emergency room. "You don't want to play games with your heart," he said.

I knew it wasn't my heart. I'd pulled a muscle in my chest. It had happened before. It felt just like this. I even knew exactly what I'd done to cause it. Yet, here I was waiting for the ER doc to show up and tell me I was fine.

Two days, multiple tests, and thousands of dollars later I was given a clean bill of health. Ugh.

The heart of a leader

It's true that you don't want to play games with the heart that beats in your chest. It's equally true that as a leader you don't want to play games with the "heart" that represents your emotional center.

Leadership requires knowledge, skills, and wisdom. It also requires healthy emotions. A leader with an ailing heart will eventually lead an ailing team. The following assessment may give you some insight into how your heart is doing.


Give yourself a leadership heart check by rating the following statements on a scale of 1-4.

1 = Never, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = Often, 4= Always

  1. I'm as passionate about my work today as I've ever been.

  2. I sometimes think about what else I could be doing with my life.

  3. I truly love my team.

  4. I wonder about the value of what we're doing.

  5. I care about each of my team members on a personal level.

  6. I'm concerned about what's ahead for us.

  7. I have a vivid vision for the future of my team.

  8. I've been angry at work recently.

  9. My motivation stays high even when it feels like nothing is happening.

  10. I'm frustrated with one or more of my team members.

  11. I love overcoming challenges and difficulties on my way to success.

  12. Sometimes if feels like everything is against us.

  13. My boss is supportive and challenging in all the right ways.

  14. We're doing everything right, but not making progress.

  15. I can't wait to get to work, even when I'm really tired.

  16. I have no idea what I'd do if I lost a high-performing team member.

  17. My team members energize me.

  18. My boss is a moron.

  19. I'm not afraid to be honest at work about my failures, weaknesses, and fears because I trust those around me.

  20. I wonder if I'm making a difference.


Add your scores from each of the odd numbered statements. Next add your scores from the even numbered statements. Finally, subtract the sum of even numbered statements from the sum of the odd numbered statements.


Sum of statements odd numbered statements = 33.

Sum of even numbered statements = 19.

33 minus 19 = 14.

  • Heart Failure: A score of -30 to 0 indicates your heart is severely limiting your leadership.

  • Heart Disease: A score of 1 to 10 indicates heart issues are significantly limiting your leadership.

  • Heart Irregularities: A score of 11 to 20 indicates periodic heart issues that slightly limit your leadership.

  • Heart Healthy: A score of 21 to 30 indicates a healthy heart that energizes your leadership.

What Now?

If your heart is holding you back you have three options. One: you can ignore it and allow your performance and your team to suffer. I don't recommend this option. Nothing is likely to change and morale and performance will decline over time.

Or you can self-medicate by reading some books, taking some time off, meditating or praying, and talking with friends and family. This can be a legitimate option if your symptoms aren't too severe or as a first step.

The third option is you can get professional help from a counselor or leadership coach. I'm a firm believer in both counseling and leadership coaching. We do regular preventative maintenance on our vehicles, why wouldn't we do the same for our leadership? Choose a counselor if your issues are primarily related to your emotions. Choose a coach if your issues are primarily related to your work.

Whatever path you choose, taking the time to think about your heart and how it affects your leadership is an important part of becoming a great leader and building high-trust, high-performance teams.

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