Placing the Heart in Leading

by Maggie Ogram

21 October 2021

"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."

Nelson Mandela

It was timely to be having an open-to-learning conversation recently with a colleague who was coaching me to think through a dilemma. A key insight I gained from the conversation was I may be over-thinking options to step on from the dilemma. During the conversation we went on to explore the potential benefits of opening to and listening to my heart not only my head to see a positive difference.

Anthony Colannino (2021) in Leading with Head and Heart: A Practical Guide to Elevating the School of Today - and Tomorrow challenges school leaders to bring their heart as well as their head to their leadership practice. Colannino brings to the forefront how the head and heart together can guide, underpin and strengthen the growth of leadership capabilities. The demands of school leadership is well documented. Currently school leaders are faced with the dilemmas faced while navigating schools through the global pandemic. We are living the experience of day to day leadership adaptability. This would seem to be a most appropriate time for leaders to inquire with and listen to both they head and heart on how they might enact leadership that makes a positive impact on learning and wellbeing.

The writing of Thomas Sergiovanni may be a point of reference for many of us when thinking about the heart as well as the head in leadership. Sergiovanni (2001) proposes that the heart of leadership (my values and beliefs) shapes the head of leadership (my view on how the world works) that in turn drive leadership decisions and practice – the hand. Leadership is distinctly normative, reflecting our values, beliefs and assumptions and …’a change in our practice requires a change in our thinking. Our leadership practice cannot be separated from its underlying theories’ (p. 38)

We see leadership that tunes into both the head and the heart and eventuates in the ‘hand’ of leadership practices in the ‘bookend’ Parameters of the 14 Parameters Learning Framework (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009) on which the CLARITY Learning Suite (CLS) is based. Parameter #1 – focused on agreeing the learning community’s shared beliefs and understandings and Parameter #14 - recognising and acknowledging the need for shared responsibility and accountability where everyone is responsible and accountable for all learners within and across schools and systems. Thank you to those in the CLS learning community who have contributed comments to the Members’ Forum in relation to leadership values and beliefs encapsulated in these Parameters.

If you are a member, and you haven't already done so, take a look at these valuable commentaries, reflections and insights on the CLS members web site.

The challenge we close with is to identify heart as well as head considerations in your leadership practices and collectively inquiry with staff, students, families what is really best for your school community. What does the “formidable combination” of a “good head and a good heart” look like as enacted at your place?


Colannino, A. (2021). Leading with Head and Heart: A Practical Guide to Elevating the School of Today - and Tomorrow.

Sergiovanni, T. (2001). Leadership: What’s in it for schools? London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Sharratt, L. & Fullan, M. (2009). Realization: The change imperative for deepening district wide reform. Melbourne, VIC: Hawker Brownlow Education.

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