Magazine article New Zealand Management

Hubbard, Gattung and Tindall On: Warm-Hearted, Cool-Headed and Hard-Nosed Leadership: We Know the Theory. We've Read (or Skimmed) Jim Collins' Level 5 Leadership, Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence and the Rest. but Perhaps Effective Business Leadership Is Less Complicated, More Holistic. Perhaps It Is as Simple as Having a Warm Heart, a Cool Head, and a Hard Nose. but What Do We Mean by This?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Hubbard, Gattung and Tindall On: Warm-Hearted, Cool-Headed and Hard-Nosed Leadership: We Know the Theory. We've Read (or Skimmed) Jim Collins' Level 5 Leadership, Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence and the Rest. but Perhaps Effective Business Leadership Is Less Complicated, More Holistic. Perhaps It Is as Simple as Having a Warm Heart, a Cool Head, and a Hard Nose. but What Do We Mean by This?

Article excerpt

Being warm-hearted means being empathetic and caring, qualities we have finally begun to appreciate in business. A warmhearted manager has a natural affinity for the needs of customers, staff, shareholders and the community, and knows how to inspire loyalty and passion. However, warm-hearted managers tend to be overly optimistic about the bottom line and sometimes avoid making the tough decisions.

A cool-headed manager, on the other hand, doesn't panic in a crisis, makes measured and logical decisions, and efficiently uses time and resources. We all know managers like this; they're astute and rational and a huge asset to any organisation. But sometimes they also seem passionless, even cold.

And the hard nose? This is less about analytical intelligence and more about instinctive business acumen. Hardnosed managers sniff out opportunities and pursue them aggressively, they focus on the bottom line, and, according to the Collins English Dictionary, are "tough, shrewd, practical". However, hard nosed managers are sometimes not particularly likeable, and the organisations they run occasionally risk long term sustainability by ignoring the needs of stakeholders.

Like Myers-Briggs personality profiles, each of these management modes has its strengths and weaknesses, and the best results come when the warm heart, the cool head and the hard nose work as a team. On a personal level, the three management modes can be imagined as your own, internal management team, each talking to you from a different perspective. Similarly, on a group level, your real-life management team should have a balance of warmhearted, cool-headed and hard-nosed viewpoints. Unfortunately, this balance is rare at both the individual and the group level. Most of us feel more comfortable working in one or two of these modes, and most teams are similarly imbalanced, often reflecting the biases of the person who appointed them in the first place.

How they work together

But why is it so important to achieve a balance between warm-hearted, cool headed and hard-nosed management modes?

We've heard the phrase "the customer is always right". So often it seems trite, yet it is entrenched as a key philosophy of successful, customer-focused organisations. Why does it work so well? From the business perspective, it appeals to the warm heart (we care about them), the cool head (it's tried and true) and to the hard nose (it's supposedly six times cheaper to keep an existing customer than find a new one). From the customer's perspective, we want to be cared about, we all think we're right, and we believe we're more likely to get a good deal when there is a personal connection. "The customer is always right" is a simple philosophy that appeals to all three modes--from both sides of the transaction.

A less obvious example of good business practice that works for all three management modes is employing staff with flexible or part-time hours. At first glance this appears to be simply motivated by warm-hearted consideration for the lifestyle needs of employees. But it also appeals to the cool head (we can draw from a wider pool of candidates) and to the hard nose (part-time staff tend to be more productive and stay longer, so the organisation pays less for more).

There are however times when the three modes conflict, in particular the warm heart and the hard nose. These are the so-called "tough decisions". In these situations it is all the more important that all three management modes are used quite deliberately, considering the issue from each perspective separately. Take downsizing for example, one of the toughest decisions of all. The hard nose can be used to explore other opportunities for increasing profitability and/or to quantify exactly how much downsizing is needed. The cool head can analyse the situation and craft a strategy that will maximise the long-term sustainability of the organisation. The warm heart should then manage how any downsizing is implemented by communicating honestly and often, providing lots of one-on-one time to talk through the issues, the alternatives and, especially, the emotions, and by being as fair and generous and kind as possible. …

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