How Great Leaders Balance Emotion And Reason


By Jas Singh

We’ve all been there.

It’s so hard to decide.

Our head says one thing. Our heart another.

Go back to that ex boyfriend whose not ready to settle down, but that makes you feel special? Take the job that seems too risky but at the sales time feels thrilling? Buy the car that is the best fit for your family or the one that will mean you’ll turn up in style?

The battle between heart and head is usually one of emotion vs reason.

And how we make the right decisions in these situations often determines the success we have.

Like all important things in life, there isn’t a one-size-fits all answer. It’s a questions of balance.

Here are some ways how great leaders balance emotion and reason.

They accept both sides of the story

When we develop any type of inner conflicts, the thing to never do is to try and struggle to negate any strong feeling. It’s essential to respect all types of thoughts and emotions – only then can you analyse them and decide what is the best thing to do.

When I’m working with people who have to make so tough career decision (say moving jobs or deciding between job offers), the people who are most satisfied with their final choice are the ones who look at the positives on both sides.

That way, whatever they do, they know they have accepted both sides of the story. They’ve listened to both their heart and their head rather than making a purely gut (heart) based decision or a purely rational (head) based decision.

Great leaders understand that as complex beings we have both emotional and rational needs that need satisfying.

They accept both sides of the argument before weighing up which is the right decision.

They seek help

The greatest leaders I have ever worked with have always had a strong group of mentors and confidants they turn to for counsel.

The CEO of a FTSE 100 company I have worked with even outright admits that he still speaks to his mother whenever he has to make a big decision. Why? Because she knows him better than anyone and can identify if he has a bias in his thinking.

Communicating our dilemmas with others brings clarity. It gets the tug-of-war between conflicting emotions out of our heads and into the open.

It’s incredibly relieving.

Successful people also take this concept further and understand who to to turn to for certain types of feedback. We all have friends who always tell us to play it safe, as well as others who tell us to go for it.

Depending on the situation, it’s important to know the right people to call on for advice.

Great leaders use others heads and others hearts.

They focus on the initial goal

When we have to make a tough decision, the automatic reaction is to look forward. To try and predict the future and the consequences of each decision.

It’s the fastest way to get stressed out.

No one can predict the future. But we can always learn from the past.

When faced with big decisions, the right thing is not to look forward but to look back. To remove yourself from the emotionally charged environment and remember what was most important to you in the first place.

Are you looking for low commitment or a long-term relationship? Career advancement or stability? Earning potential or opportunity to learn?

No-one can have everything. When you have to choose between two options you have to chose what is most important.


Most of the time, our emotions and reasoning are usually aligned.

But there will always be times when they will disagree.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who know how to respect these two internal friends and use their input properly to make the right decisions.

Your heart? Or your head? Next time you have to choose, how will you decide?

If you are a hiring manager and want to hire outstanding people, please reach out here