Life is enriched by genuine connections, and cultivating them requires leading with the heart, whether with loved ones, friends, clients, colleagues, or business partners. When it comes to business leadership, where strategies, goals, and plans often take precedence, it’s easy to overlook the profound impact of leading with the heart.

Throughout my career, I’ve continuously learned that a people-first philosophy wins. It is the idea that connecting with the team on a human level and understanding their needs and personal goals can inspire them to achieve greatness.  I have not always gotten it right, and every time I reflect on my own mistakes, this approach done better would have helped. This approach has proven itself over and over in my career and is sometimes called servant leadership. Data shows that teams led by servant leaders drive 6% higher performance, 8% better customer service, and 50% better employee retention.

Three key components to leading with heart are compassion, empathy, and emotional intelligence.


The cornerstone of leading with the heart. It involves a deep awareness and understanding of the challenges and pain faced by others, coupled with a genuine desire to alleviate their suffering. Compassionate leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members, recognizing that every individual brings unique strengths and struggles to the table. By showing compassion and offering support, leaders create a culture of trust and belonging where people feel valued and understood.


This goes together with compassion, enabling leaders to connect with their team members on an emotional level. Instead of seeing employees as cogs in a machine, empathetic leaders take the time to listen, understand, and validate team member experiences. Whether you are celebrating successes or addressing concerns, you can approach team interactions with sensitivity and understanding, which fosters strong relationships built on mutual respect and trust.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Another vital component of leading with the heart. EI encompasses the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions, as well as those of others, and then use this understanding to effectively navigate complex social situations. Leaders with high emotional intelligence are adept at managing their own emotions under pressure and remaining calm and composed in challenging situations. They also excel at reading others’ emotions, then adapting their communication style accordingly, and resolving conflicts with empathy and diplomacy.

Strategies to cultivate Heart-led leadership

According to a study in Harvard Business Review, people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout than people at low-trust companies.

Here are some strategies to cultivate Heart-led leadership and develop trust in your team:

  • Lead by example: Demonstrate integrity, honesty, and transparency in your words and actions. When your team sees you practicing what you preach, you will earn their respect and trust.
  • Communicate openly: Foster an environment where communication flows freely in all directions. Encourage feedback, listen actively, and address concerns promptly and constructively.
  • Show vulnerability: Don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake or don’t have all the answers. Being vulnerable fosters authenticity and builds trust.
  • Be consistent: Consistency creates a sense of reliability. Stay true to your values and principles. Ensure that your actions align with your words consistently over time.
  • Empower your team: Trust your employees to take ownership of their work and make decisions autonomously. Provide guidance and support as needed, but avoid micromanaging, which undermines their capabilities.
  • Recognize and appreciate: Regularly acknowledge the contributions and achievements of your team members. Genuine appreciation boosts morale and reinforces trust.
  • Educate Yourself: Heart-led leadership is a journey of continuous learning. Invest in understanding emotions, effective communication, and team dynamics. Through continuous personal development, you cultivate the knowledge and self-awareness needed to guide your team with clarity and compassion.

Leading with heart is not just a feel-good concept; it’s a strategic imperative for effective leadership. Here at AchieveUnite, we offer Leadership Development Courses built on the model of heart-led leadership. This Valentine’s Day and beyond, I hope you can invest in the well-being of your team members to foster a high-performing team, and a culture of compassion, empathy, and emotional intelligence.


Main Differences between Servant Leaders and Traditional Leaders


Author: Jory MacKay planio