Keys to Leadership- A Heart, A Brain and Courage

Lynn Fountain's Profile

When Frank Baum wrote the Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, little did he know that the desires of Dorothy’s friends were the exact traits that would determine a leaders success or failure on the road of both professional and personal life.

Except for courage, we are all born with a heart and a brain. But it is how we chose to use each of these traits that what will mark our ultimate destiny.

Brain

On her trip down the yellow brick road, Dorothy first meets the character who will become her most beloved friend - the Scarecrow. He tells her:

“I am a failure because I haven’t got a brain”.

Dorothy inquisitively asks:

“What would you do if you had a brain”. The scarecrow recites all of the things he could do with a brain. In essence he would use it for the greater good.

In today’s world of “the computers are coming to get your job” we wonder if having a brain is an essential part of being a successful professional. Maybe that is where we fall short. Professionals who don’t use their brain to logically think through issues and difficulties will face challenges. Artificial Intelligence has come a long way but there is still a real person behind much of the programming of that artificial intelligence. The ability to use your brain and maintain a “questioning mind” are essential to succeeding in todays workforce.

We need leaders who have a conscious, can reason through complex problems and situations and develop innovative solutions that meet our demanding and changing workforce. We need individuals that not only have a brain but recognize how to use it.

Heart

Next, Dorothy and the Scarecrow stumble upon the Tin Man. With a little grease lubricant, the Tin Man wakes up to the relief of being able to lower his arm holding the heavy ax. But the Tin Man also feels he is missing something. He proclaims to Dorothy that because of his empty chest:

“I'm presuming that I can only be a human if I only had a heart”

Of course in real life, no person can live without a heart. But in the business world, we find all to often how individuals may have a heart but do not recognize its purpose outside keeping their blood flowing.

A heart is more than a functioning organ. Professionals, leaders and managers who look to find the true road to success must learn the practice of utilizing the emotional portion of the hear when considering situations that emphasize integrity, truthfulness and morale behavior. Many leaders overlook the “human” side of employment and treat workers in a manner that does not encourage a positive culture. In a way, these leaders can truly be heartless. Life should not be all about corporate profits. It is about caring for our world and the people in it to advance our culture in a way that will provide future generations with a bright yellow brick road to travel down.

Heartless leaders can be a cancer in the workplace. A recent study by a major university indicated well over 70% of workers do not respect their supervisors and exhibit some type of stress from their workday. All individuals have a different sense of right and wrong and that will continue to remain a part of our culture. But if leaders do not display a true sense of caring, empathy and “heart” for their employees, the working world will continue to face the many ethical dilemmas that have plagued our society for decades.

Courage

Last, the friends stumble upon the cowardly lion. He has grown up very much alone. He feels that to get by in the world he needs a sense of courage.

Courage can be an underestimated necessity in todays business world. For many, it takes courage to get up each morning, face the day and make it to an assigned jobs. This feeling also can be perpetrated by the organizations culture and style. I came out of school in the early 80’s where women were not as prevalent in the workforce. For a young girl from Kansas, to move to a large city and work for a predominately male dominated professional firm took courage beyond expectations. But today’s culture has matured far beyond this concern. However, courage in every day actions is still an important element of success.

We must empower our employees with the ability to make decisions and have a questioning mind. This takes courage on the part of both the employee and employer. Compare this thought to having a young child question an adult. Inherently there is always the concern on the child’s part that the adult is older and will squash the child’s idea as being wrong. Professionals are the same way and it doesn’t have to relate to age. If new a professional tries to inquire about an issue that has been long standing, they may inherently feel it isn’t their place to question a legacy process. That is where courage comes in. Having the courage to question as well as accept questions will pave the way for professionals and companies to venture past the flying monkeys or the other elements that may prevent reaching the land of OZ.

It is amazing how concepts that have been in our world for decades can be dismissed or overlooked regarding their usefulness in building a strong organization and strong leaders. Think about these concepts and how they are applied in your organization. You may surprise yourself on things that seem obvious but are blocking the clear path of the yellow brick road.

To learn much more about leadership in today's business world, check out Lynn's certificate program on Ethical Leadership.

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Former Chief Audit Executive for two global companies, expert in leadersihp, SOX, COSO, ERM and corporate governance frameworks. Nationally recognized trainer, speaker published author.