Leading with head and heart

A guide to emotional intelligence in leadership

The ABC “This Working Life” podcast with Dr Kirstin Ferguson, explores several important leadership concepts. This a link to the article at the bottom of this short article.

Ferguson’s leadership framework contains eight abilities vital for the modern leader (four capabilities, which are head-based and four heart-based.)


  • Curiosity – ask one more question
  • Wisdom – what’s around the corner
  • Perspective – what’s the biggest picture
  • Capability – demonstrating excellence and authenticity


  • Humility – empowering others and deriving satisfaction from their achievements
  • Self-awareness – to know the impact of your actions and behaviours
  • Courage – to lean into difficult conversations if needs be
  • Empathy – walk in another’s shoes with judgment

In her book, “Head and Heart – The Art of Modern Leadership”, she explores how leaders need to balance these eight areas – when to dial some up and when to dial some down.

Do you use these eight things every day?

If you did a 360 feedback with your team, how would they rate you against each measure? Discuss with colleagues specific circumstances where they observe that you need to dial some of these capabilities up (or occasionally down) and whether you get the balance right between the eight.

What can you do to be reminded daily of the need to balance these eight leadership aspects?

In the ABC, “This Working Life podcast” below, they explore the following themes:

Copy the great techniques of leaders and super communicators in your team

What is leadership – many of us are accidental leaders in life, and a title does not necessarily mean we are leaders. But we can grow into our roles by looking at the best practices of our teammates who display natural leadership capabilities, regularly using the eight skills notes above, and copying their behaviours.

What is your intention as you develop into a leadership role?

Do you want to have a positive impact or leave a messy wake?

Leading Gen Zs

Gen Zs and millennials connect with leaders who use the eight qualities on a regular basis.

Too much empathy?

In the podcast, they explore the difference between cognitive and affective empathy. Too much empathy could lead to adverse consequences for a leader’s well-being, effectiveness and ability to help others in their team who may also need their attention. Cognitive empathy allows the person to imagine what the other person is going through without getting swept away by the emotion.


Ferguson says, “humility struggles with power and longevity” – what a great quote. We know from research that the higher status we become in an organisation and the longer in a role, the more rigidly we hold onto our belief that we are right. She also talks about the “word to wisdom ratio” – say less, add value when you do and be courageous in your communication when you need to be.

ABC podcast on leading with heart and head

This working life podcast

Some great books for leaders on emotional intelligence

  • “Focus, the hidden driver of excellence” by Dan Goleman
  • “Emotional agility” by Susan David
  • “Head and heart – the art of modern leadership” by Dr Kirstin Ferguson
  • “The coach like leader” by Eric Winters
  • “Super communicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection” by Charles Duhigg

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