Lead with your brain & with your heart

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 45 seconds

No one ever asked me to lead a team. No one ever taught me how to lead a team. And that’s fine, because someone not telling me what to do, was never an issue for me. I always do what I believe in. I don’t need someone to tell me to lead a team. If I feel I’m in a position to do so, I will. I led teams – sometimes I was aware of it and sometimes it was not that obvious. For me, being a leader does not mean wearing the „boss“ label.

I think the soccer star Pelé (2014) explains it in a very logical and humble way when reporters connected his leadership skills to being the captain of the team:

“Listen, I don’t need to be captain. If we have another player as captain, then there are two leaders in the game.”


Pelé didn’t need the label of the captain to lead his team. Neither do I – because if I would, I would have never led a team up to this day. I would not have led collaborative creative projects, neither my volleyball team nor my side projects. I think this is one of the reasons why I support flat hierarchies.

I am wondering is there such a thing as a natural leader? If yes, how?
Alison Coward founded Bracket to support people that work in creative teams to collaborate better. She taught us that creative collaboration is a skill, which means it can be learned and refined. If that counts for collaboration I guess the same counts for leadership. The ability to lead is a skill which needs the combination of many key skills. Emotional intelligence is the main ability. It is more essential than technical skills and intelligence to set great leaders apart. Even though there is a strong genetic aspect to emotional intelligence it can be learned. Self-awareness is part of the emotional intelligence package.


„Leaders who see themselves clearly also see their companies clearly.“
(Harvard Business Review, 2016)

This makes a lot of sense to me. I believe that if your ego is in the way, you cannot be an exemplary leader. I’m not saying that with exemplary leaders the ego never gets in the way. It probably does sometimes. The difference makes the awareness of the situation. Once you realise the ego is the problem, you can deal with it. I compare this with learning a new language. Once you start correcting yourself while speaking, you are aware of your mistakes and you can correct them on the go. You do this as long as needed.

Self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill complete the package of emotional intelligence. If we are going back to the questions of the existence of natural leaders, I think there are people who have a strong ability to lead, because their emotional intelligence is well-developed. I also think there are other people who have a huge potential to become the same „natural leaders“ because they work hard on their emotional intelligence skills. No one has it all, but if we know where our leaderships qualities lack we can work on it.

Personally, leadership is not about money, status or power. It is about humans. It is about being humble. It is about bringing out the best version of every team member.
Let’s lead with our brains and our hearts.

Reference list:

Harvard Business Review (2016). What makes a leader. Available at:
https://hbr.org/video/5236216251001/what-makes-a-leader (Accessed: 19 April 2017).

Beard, A. (2014). Life’s Work: An Interview with Pelé. Available at: https://hbr.org/2014/07/pele (Accessed: 19 April 2017).


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