No one ever said that leadership was easy. We hear the term “natural-born leader” thrown around in casual conversation and the informality of it makes us think that the ins-and-outs of leading are something genetic; something some of us are just born with.

But, that’s just not the case. Leadership is a learned skill. Sure, there are many lucky individuals that find the artistry of leadership easier to adopt than others. However, no one is born with all the knowledge they need to be able to lead a team. Some lessons must be learned through circumstance and experience. And, some skills must be practiced over time in order to be efficient and effective tools for leadership.

And, behind all those lessons, skills, effort, and practice is heart. Leaders must use their emotional heart to be truly outstanding in their work. Without heart, leadership is meaningless. It is like an empty promise to your employees. Your fiery passion and your beating heart are the backbones of your position as head of a team. And, in order to succeed, the people around you must see that and more importantly, feel that.

To lead with heart, there are a few practices you must execute:

Be Vulnerable

One of the most important characteristics of being a leader is being vulnerable. And, it’s one of the hardest, as well. Humans, by nature, hate feeling vulnerable. This is an evolutionary response that has climbed down from our genetic ancestors and is still prominent in all of us.

The ill-taste surrounding vulnerability stems from the fear of rejection. Nobody wants to feel rejected or disliked. And, when you’re a leader, the pressure is even higher because you are at the center of your team. So, all the focus is on you and your actions and reactions.

But, when you get past the initial fear of breaking down those protective walls you have created to protect yourself, you will find that vulnerability can lead to some beautiful outcomes in regards to your team.

Leaders who willingly and consciously show emotion and are vulnerable with their team gain trust and respect. This is vital in a role that requires you to make tough decisions on a daily basis. The support of a team will allow you to make these decisions more easily and with more confidence. And, when you are modeling vulnerability, your team will follow suit. This is a result of your team members feeling safe in the environment you created for them, as vulnerability promotes safety and security.

Vulnerability and Communication

Being open to discussion with your team is directly related to vulnerability. Discussions can lead to creative problem-solving and innovative solutions, which will help you and your company to rise. A leader who is close-minded and hushes their team’s input is limited to solely their own ideas, which derive from one perspective.

Vulnerability assists in creating clear communication amongst a team; an aspect that can make or break a team. “Dare to Lead” author, Brene Brown, states simply in her book, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Leaders that practice unclear communication can often be seen as rude, arrogant, or unkind. When really, they probably just haven’t learned the proper skills for communication.

It’s also essential that team members, not just leaders, remain vulnerable. However, this happens much more organically when their leader models this to them. Unfortunately, when individuals on a team shelter their personalities, backgrounds, and ideas it is difficult for a leader to notice the treasure that is hidden beneath the surface. By role-modeling vulnerability, a leader gives their team permission to be themselves, which can lead to the discovery of skills, ideas, and a top-notch efficient team model in which to work.

Having difficult conversations is never easy — hence the word “difficult.” But, they’re always necessary. And, when the element of vulnerability is already in play on a team, those hard talks get a whole lot easier. Employees will welcome feedback and constructive criticism openly, rather than immediately getting defensive or shutting down completely. Vulnerability nurtures a safe and secure work environment.

Not only will a  leader who does not practice vulnerability stifle the development of their team, but they will also stifle their own personal career development, which they are working hard to grow.

Remember Everyone Has Feelings

Every person on your team has feelings. They may feel scared, worried, sad, happy, nervous, embarrassed, or ashamed at any given moment. And, that’s because, they’re humans, just like you. It’s vital to remember this while carrying out meetings, performance reviews, and daily conversations with team members. Treating your team like they are human, rather than money signs or tools for you and your company to use, will reap major benefits. Your team will want to perform at their best and you will gain high respect from the individuals involved.

In regards to emotions, it’s essential that leaders acknowledge when an individual on their team excels. This not only boosts the team’s overall morale but it also gives them the incentive to keep improving. Motivation is not always in the form of a promotion or a salary, sometimes all people need is a little external gratification in the form of a compliment from their leader.

When problems arise on a team, empathy and connection can help to heal them. This is why an already-established vulnerable and supportive team is vital for success. Problems can kill progress and destroy a team’s mission if handled the wrong way. But by handling issues with emotions in mind, it is much easier to overcome obstacles and push forward without hard feelings.

Stay True To Your Values

The ideal leader is someone who is genuine and authentic. Individuals want to have a sense of who their leader is, rather than being led by a facade. Practicing open-hearted and authentic leadership stems from being vulnerable and it can create a ripple effect throughout your team, creating strong bonds, trust, clear communication, and productivity.

One of the easiest ways to show your team who you really are is to share your values, both personal and professional. Teams that share their values openly create a culture of respect. And, when the team’s values align, productivity is fueled by passion. 

Leaders who iterate the team’s mission to the individuals involved will gain trust and also bring out the best in their team’s performance. When team members understand the goal, they will work their best to try to support it by taking action. This passionate building-block can bring companies to the next level.

Build Trust

Trust is at the center of everything we do as humans. And, leadership is no exception.  The initial concept of being vulnerable lies at the base of trust as it works to set the tone of the work environment. So, by appearing vulnerable, recognizing feelings, and practicing authenticity, you’re already establishing a trusting connection with your team. But, there is still more to do.

To continue to build trust in your team, you must treat people as valuable assets to the company. Whenever possible, give creative freedom to allow employees to ‘play’ at work, making their work more satisfying. This bit of freedom will relay the message to employees that you trust their skills and judgment.

Another way to continue building trust is to eliminate any micromanaging that may be present on the team. Employees who feel “babysat” or overly scrutinized at every step of their process will begin to either resent their positions or feel insure in their abilities, both of which will not help a team to move forward.

Accountability is another important building block of trust. A leader that can admit to making mistakes is well-respected by their teams. And, chances are, if you admit the mistake, your team, who you have built trust with, will want to help you fix it.

Embrace Failure and Push Forward

We all fall down sometimes, even leaders. But, the successful ones get up, evaluate the misstep, and move on. And, leading with heart makes these missteps easier to endure.

Leaders that are persistent after multiple failed attempts model resilence to their teams. This is a characteristic that can make a leader highly-respected. And, when failed attempts are backed with accountability and honesty, leaders gain further appreciation from the people around them.

And, not only does embracing failure make you an effective leader, but it also makes you an effective human. The ability to pick yourself up in a world full of obstacles is a skill that is invaluable and will allow you to come out on top every single time.

How To Put This Into Practice

So, it’s obvious that in order to be an effective and efficient leader, you must lead with heart and soul. In fact, all of the different aspects of leadership must be approached with that mindset. From daily conversations to fixing team issues to practicing respectful communication, heart is the glue that keeps it all together. And, hand-in-hand with heart is vulnerability.

The first step to effective leadership is learning how to master the art of vulnerability. Once you establish a safe space for your team through your open-hearted approach, you and your team will continue to rise despite failed attempts and bumps along your journey to success.


  • How Do You Lead With Heart?

Leading from the heart stems from the element of vulnerability. By showing great passion and openness in your leadership, you will essentially be leading with heart.

  • How Do You Practice Vulnerability As A Leader?

Practicing vulnerability as a leader is all about showing your true feelings and your authentic self to your team.

  • How Do You Acknowledge Feelings In the Work Environment?

Acknowledging feelings is essential is all work processes from communicating friendly ‘hellos’ on a daily basis to constructive feedback to solving team issues.

  • Why Should You Convey Your Values To Your Team?

Conveying your personal and professional values to your team helps to build trust, get all team members’ visions aligned, and unify the group.

  • How Do You Build Trust?

Building trust starts with being vulnerable. Then to continue the building of trust, a leader must be accountable for their mistakes and actions, eliminate micromanaging, and treat their team members with respect.

  • Why Is It Important To Embrace Failure?

Embracing failure is an important part of leadership because it shows your team that you are persistent and hardworking.