For the last few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart. My most recent book, The Heart of Leadership, is focused on addressing the issues of the heart that impede our leadership. In the last week, my mind has once again returned to the importance of the heart as I’ve waited with my dad for his heart surgery.
I’m writing this while sitting in the Open Heart Surgery waiting room. A week ago, my dad called me and said he needed to go to the hospital – he was having chest pains. After going to the emergency room last Friday night, the next seven days have been mostly about waiting. This waiting game reached a crescendo yesterday when dad was scheduled for a quadruple bypass. The surgery that preceded his ran very long and dad got bumped. So, here we are - 24 hours after pre-op, they finally took Dad into the operating room.
They tell us Dad has heart disease. Ironically, I believe every leader does – it’s what makes us want to focus on ourselves vs. others. For my dad, getting his new heart will improve his quality of life and his ability to serve others. If he ignores his heart, he’ll not operate at his full potential. If we ignore our heart, we’ll not serve well either. I believe every leader needs a new heart. It’s our heart that ultimately determines our level of impact, influence and success.
One of the realities Dad faced was his inability to cure himself. He needed a team to help him address his heart issues. There have been dozens of professionals engaged in the process. There’s probably a parallel lesson for all of us in that reality. As leaders, we need people to encourage us, challenge us, tell us the truth, coach us and hold us accountable.
Do you have people in your life to help you with your heart issues? Thankfully, I do. In addition to my family, I’ve been meeting with a group of men for 16 years. We meet to help each other fulfill our individual leadership potential. By the way, 7 of 8 of those men have visited us in the hospital this week. The one who hasn’t is out of the country. This is just one more reminder: we need others to help us grow. The self-made leader is a myth.
The best news of the week, Dad will emerge with a new heart - one that allows him to serve others better than he has in years. When you and I are diligent, we can get a new heart too. It will not happen by accident, any more than my dad would accidently have bypass surgery. We must decide first that we want a new heart. Then we must surround ourselves with the people who can help us make it happen.
As we wait on a report from the operating room, I’m reminded of the best leadership advice I’ve ever received:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.[GLS_Shield]