Complete the Head & Heart Leader Scale™ and receive a free, personalised report here.

From Kirstin's Desk

Home | All | Book Review: Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership

Book Review: Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership

Share this aticle

13 April 2024

Darren Cronshaw

This book has two great strengths – firstly its inspiring stories. Beginning with Captain Will Swenson’s heroic actions in Afghanistan showing heroic courage alongside empathy for his troops (told also by Simon Sinek), she offers stories that inspire and surprise. From politicians Jacinda Arden and Volodomy Zelensky, to business, academy and military leaders, to informal leaders in the community during COVID-19, Ferguson illustrates how leadership is for all of us. It is expressed by speaking encouraging words to a colleague or being transparent about seeking support for mental health, volunteering for a school committee or bringing change transformation to a large organisation.

Her stories and underlying theory of leadership that we need the logic of analytical reasoning and the soft emotional skills of the heart are an invitation at all levels. None of us have to wait for an invitation to lead, like a golden tickets from Willie Wonka. Opportunities and challenges are facing all of us. In her words:

“No longer do we expect or want our leaders to be wise, heroic figureheads with decades of experience and who may have inherited their place in the world. We understand we can, and should, learn from everyone. We don’t want leaders who only see to command others, but instead who draw on the strengths and collective leadership of those around them. We want leaders who understand their limitations and have the strength to be vulnerable. We want leaders who are humbled by the sheer complexity of the issues they need to resolve and the ambiguity of the problems they need to confront. We want leaders who value feedback and who know they will always need to work at being the best leaders they can be.”

The second key strength of Head & Heart is the elevation of eight key attributes of a head and heart leader. 

Head leadership involves these four attributes:

  • Curiosity: asking questions with a thirst for learning what we don’t know and rethink what we think we understand; e.g. “What do you need in your new role that will help you grow and shine?”
  • Wisdom: collecting insights, identifying cognitive distortions, weighing up risk and reward, and navigating optimal paths forward. 
  • Perspective: to empathetically “read the room” and understanding the context and implications of actions, including picking the right opportunity and time to push. 
  • Capability: to offer not just your own best but to bring out the best in others, like an orchestra conductor bringing out the best in musicians together. Good tools for this are to monitor our “word-to-wisdom” ratio and not to try to be the smartest person in each room.

Heart leadership involves these equally important four attributes:

  • Humility: to accept our own limits and eagerly seek the contributions and new ideas of others, and not get stranded on ‘mount Stupid” of not admitting ignorance.
  • Self-awareness: insight into own limits, abilities, character, motivation, triggers and cognitive biases that hamper judgment and decision-making, and how we impact others. 
  • Courage: to speak up and make decisions that are right and create culture for others to do the same.  
  • Empathy: understand and value the feelings and differences of others to derive better outcomes.  

Each chapter is worth thoughtful reading and application for its key virtue. The key is not picking and choosing from among these, but artfully integrating head and heart in our words, choices and behaviours. Alongside the inspiring stories are tools and principles for embodying each virtue, and the integration of head and heart, at home and work, in honest conversations, in complex decision-making, in optimising meetings, and preparing for future challenges complicated by emerging technologies and changing work patterns. 

The author Dr Kirstin Ferguson AM is an Australian leadership guru with a RAAF officer background enhanced by research depth and business leadership experience. Her PhD is in leadership and culture. She is a Member of the Order of Australia recognising her service to business and gender equality. She writes weekly on leadership and work in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. She has developed the Head & Heart leader scale alongside Prof Lisa Bradley which is worth doing as part of the book’s learning journey to consider our strengths and areas for development:

Share this aticle

International keynote speaker

Kirstin is a highly sought after keynote speaker who has opened dozens of conferences and events across Australia and NZ, as well as around the world.

Are you a head & heart leader?

Take the quick Head & Heart Leader Scale™ to understand your own head and heart leadership and receive a free, personalised report.

Latest From Kirstin’s Desk

Stay in touch

Join many thousands around the world who have subscribed to Dr Kirstin Ferguson’s free weekly newsletter, Impact Loop.

As a bonus, you will receive the introduction to her award-winning and bestselling book, Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership, to download for free.
©2023 Kirstin Ferguson Pty Ltd
Privacy Policy