Leadership: Head or Heart?

Moses – Great Leader?

No one questions Moses’ spiritual depth. After all, he gave up the luxuries of Egypt to identify with God’s people. He prayed for the rebellious Israelites to the point of asking God to blot him out of the book of life to spare the Israelites. Moses was a great guy, great spiritual man, and had great love for his people. Yet, did loving people and being deeply spiritual make Moses a good leader? Not according to his father-in-law, Jethro, early in his ministry.

Jethro visited the family while the Israelites were in the wilderness. He observed how Moses was leading and said, “The thing you are doing is not good. You will wear yourself out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.”  – Exodus 18:17-18.

Jethro gave Moses practical advice about delegation and organization. He told Moses to select dependable leaders and share the workload.

  • He gave Moses the criteria for selecting good leaders.
  • He told him to train the people in the laws of God and empower other leaders to make decisions.
  • Finally, he talked to Moses about management by exception. He told Moses to hear only the major disputes (Exodus 18:19-22).

The spiritual and natural work together

In this example, we see how the spiritual and natural work together for effective leadership. In separating the spiritual from the natural or practical, much harm is done to organizations and the people in them. Though Moses had a good heart and was working himself to death to hear the disputes of the people, he wasn’t blessing them. They were standing in long lines wasting their days in the hot desert waiting on Moses. But then, Moses actually blessed them by organizing, delegating, and training.

Leading only with the head can be cold and harsh. Many kings of the Old Testament proved that. But leading with the heart without the head can be very dysfunctional. Moses certainly proved that. Good leadership takes both.

When we refer to the head, we mean the rational, analytical, and problem-solving portion of the leader. The heart refers to the emotional and spiritual aspects of the leader. Jethro observed Moses’ approach to leadership with his head (rational and problem-solving ability) and gave Moses good organizational advice. Moses looked at the Israelites with his heart (spirit and emotions) and asked God to spare them.

Head and Heart Leadership

Think of people you know who are all head.

  • What kind of culture exists in their organization?
  • Think of someone you know who is all heart. What is the culture of their organization?
  • Think of someone who has a good balance of both head and heart. What is their organization like?
  • Think about where you are on the scale. Are you where you want to be? If not, what would you have to change to be there?

For more information about leading by the heart and the head, consider buying Good King/Bad King, Leon Drennan’s new book. You will find these teachings as well as much more!