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Review – Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership

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Peter Bateman – Safeguard




Confession time. Despite being a lifetime avid book reader – mostly literary fiction and history, thanks for asking – until  this volume crossed my desk I was a leadership book virgin. 

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that according to Kirstin Ferguson, everyone is a leader, including me. 

On reflection, being editor of an industry magazine is a leadership role of sorts, and Kirstin Ferguson 

I was board chair of the local primary school for a decade, a  role for which I was unwillingly 

shoulder-tapped but gradually came to embrace, with some expert coaching from an outstanding principal and support from fellow board members. 

Ferguson, who has had significant leadership roles in her varied career, here blends her work experiences with her recent academic research into leadership, bringing it into focus with the help of many illuminating anecdotes leaders of all kinds shared with her in interviews. (Some years earlier, her PhD looked at leadership specifically in health & safety.) 

There are quotes from these leaders which will resonate with anyone in a health & safety role, including this from BHP CEO Mike Henry: “When someone is willing to take a position on something and back themselves, then that is the act of a leader.” 

The author’s thesis is two-fold: that all of us are leaders in some way; and that to be an effective leader you need to know when to lead with the head and when to lead with the heart. 

The book has chapters for the four Head attributes (curiosity, wisdom, perspective, capability) and for the four Heart attributes (humility, self-awareness, courage, empathy.) 

Perhaps the chapters on curiosity, perspective and courage will most resonate with Safeguard readers. There is plenty here for anyone interested in asking better questions and in creating psychological safety to enable them to be honestly answered. 

Ferguson knows of what she speaks, recalling her days in the Australian Defence Force Academy, which she describes as having had the antithesis of a psychologically safe culture. 

Having now succumbed to the allure of this most popular of book categories, I feel no urge to carry on with my wanton ways. I will ignore the siren calls of Simon Sinek, Brene Brown, and Jim Collins. 

This book has challenged, illuminated and expanded my thinking on what makes for outstanding leadership at any level. It’ll do me just fine. 

Peter Bateman,

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