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  • Teresa Carey

Healthy-Hearted Leadership – Surrendering to Better Serve

“If you’re too big to serve, you’re too small to lead.” Rich Wilkerson, Jr.


Since February is officially American Heart month, the time when we’re challenged to be more aware of our cardiovascular health, maybe we should focus on how our hearts are working as servant leaders.

  • How healthy is your leadership servant heart?

  • What would it look like to surrender yourself daily in the name of full-in, whole and healthy-hearted leadership?

  • What could happen to your joy and effectiveness?

  • How would your teams’ engagement and performance shift?

  • What improved outcomes might be gained through this choice?

Leading with a servant-heart requires acceptance of a new mindset or acknowledging that there are things we must let go and vulnerably surrender. Perhaps not coincidently, surrender is my word for 2023. And, in full disclosure, I didn’t surrender to the word easily. Ahem. It was a bit of a slugfest as I realized there were concessions to be made and lessons to be learned.


While surrender can suggest failure or mean “giving up,” it can also mean “giving way to.” In its most beneficial state, surrendering can allow us to sacrifice the things that don’t bring out our best, in order to give way to those things that make us better.


Almost instantly, as recency bias would have it, conversations with leaders and their own awakening to the need for surrender started surfacing. Here are a few of the behaviors leaders have told me they’re surrendering in their quest for servant-hearted leadership:

  • Habits that take more than they ultimately give – At the top of this list included daily drinking or regular happy hours. They’re replacing these rituals with healthier options, like working out or reading.

  • Judgment of and assumptions about others - Instead of jumping to the conclusion that more vocal team members are dramatic or “extra”, they’re listening more deeply and learning more about their challenges.

  • The need for control over exactly how a project is managed or completed based on personal style. Alternatively, they’re simply focusing on getting the right results.

  • Obsessive ownership over someone’s success – They’re letting go and letting the person show their capability.

  • Overconcern about what others think and people-pleasing are being replaced with trusting their own truth.

  • Abandoning former beliefs or behaviors that worked in the past but are not the right direction for the future.

How open is your heart as a leader? What do you need to surrender in 2023? As H. Jackson Browne, Jr., the author of Life’s Little Instruction Book reminds us, “Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”

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