A Closed Heart Can’t Be Led

A closed heart can’t be led.

Anything you do or say that gives permission for people to open their hearts enhances your leadership.

Feeling understood:

Words that help people feel understood are more useful to leaders than threats, reasons, and explanations.

A person who feels understood opens their heart to influence. (They still must believe you’re competent.)

Feeling misunderstood creates walls, distance, and isolation that competence can’t overcome.


Influence from you requires vulnerability in others.

Being influenced is an act of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the channel of influence. Followers lower resistance and become vulnerable when they allow you to influence them.

You won’t need to worry about influencing others if they feel understood because feeling understood enables vulnerability.

Self-protection blocks responsiveness.

Anyone you influence trusts you to do no harm.


Every time you say something that harms, you create distance. Every act that invites others to protect themselves, elevates resistance and lowers your ability to lead. 

Humility in you enables vulnerability in others. When you are humble, others dare to open their hearts. 

Humility overcomes reluctance to respond to leadership.

Anything you do or say that causes people to protect themselves lessens your ability to lead.

Connect with the language of emotion:

  1. You seem excited.
  2. You must feel …. (Insert words like confused, worried, or concerned.)
  3. You seem to care deeply about …. (Describe their passion.)
  4. This seems important to you.

After describing emotion, seek confirmation. “Am I understanding what’s going on for you?”

Realize that you could be wrong when describing another’s emotion.

Ask for clarification when you miss the mark. “Oh, I guess I don’t really understand. What am I missing?”

Skillful leaders connect before trying to lead.

Release your need to be understood and you’ll enhance your ability to lead. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Dr. Stephen Covey

How might leaders make it safe for people to follow?