Leading with Your Heart or Leading With Your Experience?

By Hassan M. Al-Sharif, CIO, Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc.

Just recently I was having a conversation with a  long-time professional associate and friend of mine reminiscing about the various roles we held throughout the years and the consistent themes that became part of our work histories.

We particularly focused about my perspectives and reasons as to why I chose healthcare not only as my field, but also as my mission and the force that permeates all I do.

Those reasons were born out of a very personal and traumatic experience of which I will not go into details.  Suffice to say that I came to the realization that what we do in healthcare (no matter how small) really matters…and by a lot!

For me, that did not come as an intellectual realization born out of the 16 plus years I spent in the field, but it rather came as a visceral, core-of-your-being realization born out of an immediate personal experience nearly 20 years ago that, not only shaped my personal life but also my professional perspectives and orientation.

Normally, I do not make it a practice to speak of that experience, save when it fits in a specific context for a specific purpose, especially when I am considering or being considered for a new role in the healthcare field.

As much as it is important for you to know them, it is even more important for them to know you!  My experiences in this arena have been a mixed bag.

When you lead with you heart, some will perceive it as a contrived, scoring-points exercise (after all, in this age of cynicism, how can we speak of love and spiritual missions about the workplace?).  Those are people and places I could do without and they certainly could do without me!

Some will embrace it because it reflects “their culture”.  Sadly though, in some cases the gap between “what we think we are or aspire to be” vs. “what we really are and how we behave” would require a fundamental rewrite of a company’s DNA…not an easy task.

Others, though, not only get it but also get it in a visceral manner.  Those are places where the magic happens! Magic has happened for me and continues to happen as I embark into new opportunities.

So, I always chose to lead with my heart because leading with your heart sets the tone and letting your experience speak for itself creates the magic!

Come to think of it, I think my very own work DNA and orientation hearkens back to a much earlier time when I learned much about life, including work.

Not a learning through management books in my MBA program or professional experience and development since, but rather by reading and internalizing The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (which I think should be a required reading for anyone in a leadership role).

Here is my favorite quote about work in The Prophet (the things we don’t speak of in corporate land):

“You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.”  – Gibran Khalil Gibran