A brain. A heart. The nerve.

The Wizard of Oz and leadership on Lightbox business


Yesterday I was part of a studio tour for a small group at Hattie Rex.  

It was a group of 5, so we all had a chance to chat about business and art and the intersection of the two.  

One member of the group told me about a piece of advice he heard in a leadership lecture once.  A member of the audience asked, "How do we become great leaders?"

To which the presenter replied, "Have you seen the Wizard of Oz?  To be a successful leader you need the same three things as the scarecrow, the tinman, and the lion.  A brain.  A heart.  And courage."

I agreed with this statement.  And this morning, I find myself reconsidering it, and I evaluate my skills as a leader.  


The brain, I have.  I have no shortage of ideas, or resourceful ways to execute them, or trouble figuring out answers to complicated problems.  No worries there.

And courage, of course, I have that.  I'm not afraid of hard work, of taking chances or trying something new.  

But the heart.

Oh, the heart.

I have it, for sure.  For my business and my direction and my employees.  I'm passionate about my work and I love my people.  But my weakest link is my heart.  

I am the tinman in the Wizard of Oz world of business.  

Except I have a heart.  I just don't lead with it. 

I don't lead with my heart, meaning, my heart is not the first filter I use when processing information. 

And before you applaud me or think that I'm preaching or bragging, hear me out.

Some people have the innate ability to ingest other people's emotions right alongside their words or behavior.  Those words and behaviors are colored with the emotions.  They are the cause and the effect.  One doesn't exist without the other.  And sometimes the listener's emotions can add a little shade to those colors, too.  The heart is the first filter.

But others of us, we don't have those colors around the words and behavior.  We take it as fact.  It's black and white.  It's not that we don't care about people's feelings, it's just that we don't consider that it was a factor in the outcome.  Short sided?  Maybe.  It's not an intentional act of selfishness, it's just that the brain is the first filter.  

The problem arrives when the first filter is the only filter.  

If you filter through the heart but don't consider the logistics, or if you filter through the brain, but don't consider the other person's position, you could find yourself in muddy water.  This is where communication crumbles.  We need a double-filtration system.

As a member of the Primary Filter = Brain category, I admit that it is a learned behavior to remind myself to consider the way other people feel or to consider that others' emotions may have contributed to their actions.  Like the math teacher who doesn't care if you show your work or not.  My primary focus is the final answer.  

But how they got to that answer matters. 

Double filtration.

Employee management, for me, has been the hardest part of being a business owner.  People aren't an exact science.  There's no one-size-fits-all solution.  And no one is a born manager.

We learn (hopefully) to manage ourselves.  And we learn to manage our families.  And later our friend and romantic relationships.  But managing employees?  That's an entirely different ballgame.  It requires both the double filtration AND the nerve to try, and practice, and fail, and succeed.  And we're never done.  Leadership always maintains room for growth.

For me, experience has been the best teacher.  And now, as I'm working with other small businesses and observing leadership at play in others' organizations, I'm giving it more thought.  I'd love to hear your feedback on it.  

What's your weakest link?  What can you improve to become a better leader?  Let us know in the comments.

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