From The







From The

From The


The Head and the Heart

“You always think with your head, and I think with my heart”

These are my brother’s words. He and I are so different in so many ways and it meant that growing up, we often didn’t see eye to eye. We can chalk it up to typical ‘sibling rivalry’ but this observation challenged me to think more about our dynamic.

I am driven by logic and reason while he is driven by intuition and feeling. He’s more idealistic and I’m more realistic. I want to push for results, he wants to push for involvement. These qualities affect the way that we see the world, the way that we make decisions, and the way that we behave.

The battle between “the head and the heart” is as old as time. But, this dichotomy was really explored in the early 1900’s when the University of Michigan and Ohio State University began conducting research on management practices. What these studies found was that people typically demonstrate two distinct types of behavior: task-focused or people-focused. Task-focused individuals demonstrate concern for the task, structure and results. People-focused individuals demonstrate concern for people and relationships.

We tend to pit these two against each other and force ourselves to choose one or the other. But, emotion is not the enemy of reason, and logic is not without feeling. If we are task-focused, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a heart. And if we are people-focused, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a brain. But, many of us do have a natural inkling about which kind of behavior is our strength, and which one we need to spend time developing.

Tin Man, Dorothy, and Scarecrow (Wizard of Oz, 1939)

If we are naturally task-focused, we may want to practice:

  • Seeking input from others
  • Dedicating time for relationship building
  • Practicing individualized consideration
  • Recognizing and appreciating others
  • Being flexible

If we are more naturally people-focused, we may want to practice:

  • Establishing structure, roles, and goals
  • Creating and following schedules and deadlines
  • Fostering accountability and follow through
  • Delivering results
  • Conducting regular evaluations and reviews

Now, our behavior is obviously much more complicated than just these two simple factors. It’s affected by our personality, our experiences, our values, and situational context, which are all extremely complex and make us unique individuals. But, our behavior is something that we can control, that we can change, that we can learn. What we really need is balance between these two types of behavior. To accomplish any task we need people, and those people have to feel motivated and engaged in order to do good work. When we can do that:

– We are able to better motivate and engage others by appealing to their own personal styles
– We can better identify root causes of conflict because of differing goals, methods, and values
– We actively develop multiple forms of intelligence – cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral
– We transform our definition of success so that it actually has three factors: results, process, and relationships

While it’s true that I might “think with my head” it doesn’t mean that I can’t also act with my heart. Let’s not limit ourselves to one or the other unnecessarily. There’s a great Nelson Mandela quote that says, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” What a wonderful reminder that we can give ourselves the benefit of both and accomplish great things!

*Leadership Lesson*

Take this assessment and follow the instruction to see if you are more “task” or “people” focused! Then, consider these questions:

  • What does that behavior look like in your personal and professional life?
  • How does that behavior help you? How does it hinder you?
  • What are some achievable ways you can begin to develop the other behavior? What challenges do you forsee?
  • Why is this important in your role/given your responsibility?
  • What’s one actionable thing you can do this week to begin to see more balance between the two behaviors?


*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.