We have worked in education for a long time. Each of us has found that people who are the most successful in aligning actions to achieve the desired results in a department, division, or organization have certain characteristics in common. These characteristics come together in one overarching skill: the ability to connect with both the heart and mind of those we lead, work with, or provide services to. To create highly effective K-12 and higher education systems, leaders must be able to make these connections.
Why is it so important to connect with the emotional and rational aspects of people? Well, many people working in education are both scientifically minded and deeply passionate about their work. When we connect to the mind, we’re appealing to their logical, data-driven, and evidence-seeking side. When we connect to the heart, we’re appealing to people’s passion and to the values they bring to work every day—the same values that led them to this career.
It’s the same with students: we diagnose where they are, create a lesson plan, monitor their progress, give them feedback on their performance, and assess the outcome. That’s the mind part. We also need to provide comfort, reassurance, and hope. That’s the heart part.
A Skill Set Every Leader Needs
What characteristics do high-performing leaders exhibit? They are authentic and show empathy. High-performing leaders can bring conversations back to point. They have an instinct for knowing when to push an individual and when to not. Other key qualities are the ability to limit and sequence changes, to break things into understandable steps, and to connect back to a group’s mission, vision, and values. Finally, they can also connect the dots for people—to pull the various elements together.
How do you connect heart and mind for the good of those you lead? Which skills do you already possess? Which can you strive to develop? Take some time to reflect, remembering to align the connections you make to the mission, vision, and values of your organization.