Webinar Summary: Leading from the Head and the Heart

(To view the webinar presentation, click here.)

In his September 22 webinar presentation, “Leading from the Head and the Heart: A Simple Model for Turbulent Times,” Joseph P. Zolner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education uses a two-by-two matrix to illustrate a simple model of leadership. The matrix rows are comprised of the two types of leadership orientation he calls “the head” and “the heart,” while its columns represent two different time horizons, the reactive (or short-term goals) and the proactive (or the medium- to long-term goals). Dr. Zolner believes that an effective leader should be developing plans and strategies for all four boxes in the matrix, but he gave particular emphasis to aspects related to “the heart” in his presentation.

Dr. Zolner describes “the head” as the fact-based, data-driven style of management. Crisis management, risk assessment, and academic program planning are all examples of leading using “the head.” “The heart” is the more emotional style of management. It requires leaders to foster an environment of emotional intelligence and empathy, while thinking at a personal and interpersonal level. Leaders often focus on “the head” and neglect to pay sufficient attention to “the heart,” particularly during a times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Zolner identifies five predictable sources of anxiety during times of crisis, provides strategies to anticipate these stressors, and recommends steps to address the emotional well-being of leaders and their colleagues.

  • Stressor 1: A sense of losing control, as all sense of normalcy and daily routines are thrown into disarray. Dr. Zolner believes this is not a time to be dictating the actions of colleagues; rather, leaders should provide several different options for participation, thereby increasing everyone’s sense of agency and control in their professional life.
  • Stressor 2: Too much uncertainty, as the nature of the pandemic makes it more challenging to manage plans for the long-term future. Dr. Zolner suggests that leaders make a conscious effort to circulate information to colleagues, so that everyone in their department is up to date and aware of the course of action, and be transparent with everyone, even if they do not have all the answers.
  • Stressor 3: A sudden culture shock in the professional environment. The pandemic has drastically changed the processes and tasks of almost everyone’s jobs, so Dr. Zolner says leaders should invoke familiar strengths, traditions, and values in the way they are working with their colleagues.
  • Stressor 4: Concerns about one’s own competence. Dr. Zolner shared that the transition to teaching online was difficult for him as he had become comfortable teaching in person over the course of his career in education. Leaders should recognize the importance of providing colleagues with tools and opportunities to learn new skills in order to boost their confidence.
  • Stressor 5: An increased workload. Dr. Zolner urges leaders to look at existing work assignments to see if they can be delayed or restructured to ease the workload of colleagues. He also encourages leaders to actively show support and recognition to their colleagues to let them know their hard work is appreciated.

In Dr. Zolner’s view, it is equally critical that leaders assess their own emotional wellness and take steps to reduce the stress they experience in the work environment.

To view the webinar presentation, click here.