heart “The human heart is like a ship on a stormy sea driven about by winds blowing from all four corners of heaven.” – Martin Luther King
Of all the conscious leadership qualities that we have shared with people over the last year, Heart seems to be the one that people find most difficult to get a real grasp on. The more surface level reaction to it is that it is all about love. “How can I feel love for everybody, even if I don’t like them?”

Heart and love as a conscious leader are something deeper. In part, heart is a space of warmth, compassion, seeing the humanness in every person we meet and respecting and honouring them in their own journey. It is a quality that is deeply important to me, and of all the 5 qualities I believe it comes to me most naturally. I am very likely to reach out a hand to someone struggling at work, to defend someone’s work in a meeting, or to look at someone’s odd or difficult behaviour and rather than condemn or react to it, ask “why, what is driving this under the surface?”

However, working with a deeper sense of this quality has invited me to explore another side to heart. When one truly respects and honours the people that we work and live with, we are also called upon to be robust and discerning at times. The old adage “tough love” speaks to this. Sometimes we need to have the courage to say what needs to be said and heard. It might not be comfortable to speak up, and certainly not for me, but ultimately being honest and clear creates space for learning and growth.

I am starting to see the quality of heart as a dimension, at one end compassion, and at the other discernment, and that to really be living the quality of heart, we need to bring these to bear together in balance. If we over focus on warmth and compassion, we are missing the opportunity for growth and clarity, if we over focus on discernment we risk being too judgemental, too harsh.

In practice, I try to find myself in meetings and interactions with others holding the image of being the helmsman of a yacht. The aim, to navigate the conversations in a way that the room is in a balance that respects everyone’s needs in a heartfelt way. Sometimes the wind is blowing everyone into being overly critical or judgemental and I try to steer the conversation to include some more warmth and kindness. Sometimes the conversation is too comfortable, too forgiving, and despite it not feeling like a natural thing to do, I take courage to steer it towards the thing that is being avoided.

The key to doing this, I have realised, is that I must hold a clear intent and gentle presence when making my contribution. This then seems to create the space for others to respond from their heart, which they often do without any discussion or focus on the needed shift. This is still most definitely a work in progress for me, and it would be wonderful to know if anyone else has experiences of managing this balance in difficult “waters” and has any ‘helmsman’ tips to share!

Beth Ogilvie-King