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Head and Heart Leadership with Kirstin Ferguson

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11 December 2023

In the last live Connected Leadership podcast episode of 2023, Andy Lopata interviews Dr. Kirstin Ferguson, an acclaimed Australian leadership expert and award-winning author. They explore her notable career, her new book “Head and Heart Leadership,” and her journey. Kirstin, a recipient of the international Thinkers50 Distinguished Award for Leadership is among the top 50 global thinkers. With a PhD in leadership and culture and honours degrees in Law and History, she advises international brands on modern leadership. Kirstin is also an Adjunct Professor at the QUT Business School and a Sir Winston Churchill Fellow.

Kirstin shared insights from thirty years of leadership experience including her time in the Royal Australian Air Force, leading a global consulting firm, and serving on the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). She expressed gratitude for the experiences that shaped her leadership style and informed her idea of what it means to be a “modern leader”, capable of reading situations and adapting interaction styles to build effective rapport. 

Kirstin touched on the challenges she faced while steering the ABC through a crisis, emphasising the importance of compartmentalising work stress and appreciating the role of supportive individuals in her life. She highlighted the evolving expectations of modern leaders, the necessity of bringing one’s whole self to work, and the importance of connecting on a personal level while maintaining professional boundaries.

Being authentic as a leader was emphasised, with Kirstin illustrating its significance through her usage of social media and her approach to connecting with different people in diverse situations. She stressed the need to respect and meet others where they are, in order to build connections and achieve influence effectively.

Andy and Kirstin discuss the balance of head and heart for effective leadership. Leaders should be adaptable, and able to react according to what is required, whether that needs a rational or empathetic approach, making it impossible to determine a fixed ratio between head and heart leadership.

Andy and Kirstin examine eight key attributes, including curiosity, wisdom, perspective, capability (head-based), humility, self-awareness, empathy, and courage (heart-based). Kirstin points out that possessing these qualities is essential, but the art of modern leadership lies in knowing which to employ and when.

One intriguing point during the discussion is the explanation of the attribute ‘perspective’ and its correlation with diversity, inclusivity, and noticing who and what is missing from the room.

Head & Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership

by Kirstin Ferguson

Connect with Andy Lopata Website

Connect with Dr. Kirstin Ferguson LinkedIn

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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.

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