The Heart to Lead

     The great philosopher Aristotle once said, “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind, next to honor.” Yet courage is something more than a quality of the mind. It is more fundamentally, a condition of the heart.

     Let me explain.

     From a Western perspective, the heart is a mechanical pump that transports blood first to the lungs, then on to the rest of the body. We routinely refer to this process as oxygenation. When the heart stops, death ensues. However, in Chinese medicine, the heart is far more than a muscle fulfilling a required task for physical survival. The heart is actually deemed the emperor: the leader of the entire body. It is the irreplaceable organ that rules all aspects of our being: physically, mentally, and spiritually.

     The Chinese are not the only ones to recognize that our heart is not merely a physical organ, but also a symbol of the true source of internal fortitude we draw from to guide our thoughts and drive our actions. For example, in the Hebrew tradition the heart is the location of knowledge and the conscious source of our decisions. Your heart is who you are, the ‘true you” that directs all your thoughts and emotions. You can educate your heart—consciously form a particular worldview—and you can train your heart—willingly making choices aligned with what you deem most important in life. Taken together then, our heart metaphorically serves as the wellspring of our values—those ideals and beliefs that shape our thinking and direct our behaviors.

     If you pause and think about it, many of the troubles we experience in life occur because we don’t act in accordance with our values. Rather, we allow ourselves to be distracted or dissuaded from doing what we know to be right by such unreliable sources such as culture (“everyone else is doing it”), tradition (“we’ve always done it this way”), reason (“this seemed the logical thing to do”), or emotion (“it just felt right”). This is why possessing and practicing moral courage is so important.  It equips us with the strength to take a stand for what we believe in; it encourages us to see a wrong, and fight to set it right; and it empowers us to walk differently in the world, even when it is unsettling, uncomfortable, or just plain unpopular.

Heart to Lead -
John E. Michel is a widely recognized expert in culture, strategy & individual and organizational change. An accomplished unconventional leader and proven status quo buster, he has successfully led several multi-billion dollar transformation efforts and his award-winning work has been featured in a wide variety of articles and journals, including the Harvard Business Review. John enjoys helping people learn to walk differently in the world so they can become the best version of themselves possible and is married to the most patient person on the planet. Together, they are blessed with two amazing sons. You are encouraged to learn more about John at his website,