What makes you wholehearted? Sometimes it is easier to grasp what something is by starting with its opposite. Think about a person in your work life, or even your personal sphere, who you consider to be half-hearted about something. It usually doesn't take long to conjure up someone who fits that label.

A half-hearted person goes through the motions, is hesitant to take any real risks, and is reluctant to commit deeply to the cause. It seems like the person is holding back, unwilling to jump in with both feet, choosing instead to test the waters with a tentative toe dip. You can never quite tell if the person is being completely open with you about where they stand.

A wholehearted person is the opposite. This person brings their whole heart to the table, which you can feel through their passion and commitment. But the most compelling feature about a wholehearted person is their willingness to be honest and open about how they see things. They don't have a problem being transparent because they see their openness as a virtue.

In her popular Ted Talk, Dr. Brene Brown describes wholehearted person as someone who is comfortable with vulnerability - who can roll with the punches that life throws at them along the way.


The very nature of vulnerability requires you to let go of control. If you must live in a perfect world where there are no mistakes, you will struggle with being a wholehearted person.

It's in the connection. Brown's research highlights what we know to be true from our own personal experience: people who struggle with vulnerability find it difficult to connect with their whole heart. This makes sense when you peel it back. The more you pressure yourself to be perfect, the harder it is to let other people help you. Real connections happen when people see you as wholehearted enough to actually need them for something.

You cannot be wholehearted if you fear taking risks. A wholehearted person is more concerned about making a difference and less concerned about being right, or having everything nailed down. Half-hearted people don't like to wander too far out on a limb. In contrast, a wholehearted person is not afraid to venture out on that same limb to find a new pathway.

At the most fundamental level, a wholehearted person has courage. Be careful not to equate courage with absence of fear. Like all people, the wholehearted definitely experience fear. But unlike the half-hearted who are silenced by those fears, the wholehearted person pushes into them, making it easier for other people to do the same.

The wholehearted leader. Leadership is not limited to rank, position or title. Leadership is about influence; about having a point of view. Even if you don't lead a team, you can be a wholehearted leader at work - simply by having a point of view. When you show some vulnerability and speak your mind, you often inspire other people to do the same.

For example, a young guy on a team decided to confront two older teammates about the disrespectful way they were treating another colleague, who happened to be the first woman on the team. It took a lot of courage for him to push through his fears, but he saw his vulnerability as a strength - and decided to go for it.

The end result was better than the young man had hoped: the older members were grateful for the courage he had shown, followed by a team meeting where apologies were offered. When you are wholehearted, you trust your intuition to serve you well. On those occasions where principle is involved, you have to back yourself enough to put your whole heart on the table.

When you show some vulnerability and speak your mind, you often inspire other people to do the same.


If you lead a team, it is even more important that you get your head around vulnerability. If you want your team to be open with you about things they worry about, you have to be able to relate to their challenges. Share a story from your own past, where you also had to push through some adversity. That story will help to connect you. This is the beauty of empathy - it enables connection.

The wholehearted leader connects through empathy - more focused on what is required for a successful outcome, rather than protecting turf, ego or pride. On high performing teams, wholehearted members resist the temptation to splinter into factions to engage in 'below the line' behaviour. When you lead with your whole heart, your words and actions are congruent.

Four sure ways to tell. To be a wholehearted leader, there are four essentials required to help you make stronger connections with other people. They not only apply at work, but also in your broader life. It all boils down to your ability to need other people.

How do you see yourself on these four essentials?
1. Comfort with imperfection. This is at the very core of being a wholehearted leader. If you don't need to be a perfect person, then it's much easier to let other people help you be successful. If you fear imperfection, then it becomes very difficult to let your team, or your peers, help you win. To let other people help you means that you have to be okay with not being perfect.

This is also about you deciding to back yourself more, even if you don't have all the perfect answers. You don't need to have everything nailed down in order to speak your mind, or offer a suggestion. Being wholehearted means that you are willing to take back yourself with the 80 per cent solution. Doing anything is better than doing nothing.

It is hard to coach someone to take a risk when you hardly take any risks yourself. If you are a team leader, this may start with you learning to be more hands-off when you have a capable team who grow more confident when you trust them to get on with it.

2. Able to let other people help. You can see how the four essentials build on each other. If you are okay with being an imperfect person, that makes it much easier to then let other people help you be successful. This is especially important if you lead a team. If you hire people to help you think, then let them help you think. This means that you should be able to take advice.

It's one thing to say that you need the help and support of your team. It's even more powerful when you are explicit with them about how they can help you. People go to work each day with the best intent to make a difference.

If you are in a new role, don't be too proud to ask advice from someone who was in your shoes one year ago.


If you want to make someone's day at work, take a moment and need that person for something - where they honestly feel that they have helped you with something important, or maybe not that important at all, but nevertheless helpful.

3. Comfort showing gratitude. It is very difficult to show true gratitude to someone if you don't really believe they have helped you. That's what a 'thank you' sounds like coming from a perfect person. If you are perfect, why would you need to thank someone else? All the answers come from you, or at least that's the vibe you give off.

If you are a person who doesn't need much affirmation, do not assume that other people are the same. The vast majority of people really do appreciate being thanked for helping you - especially when they go out of their way. You can show gratitude in your own style, and in your own time, but find a way to let people know that you value their help and support.

Whether at work or in your personal life, don't take discretionary effort for granted. People go out of their way to help you because they believe in you. Every now and then, find the time to say 'thanks'.

4. Able to grow. For some people, the title of 'leader' means that they have reached pinnacle success with nothing else to learn. If you want to show empathy for people who are doing something outside their comfort zone, then let them see you do something outside your own.

If you don't put yourself onto new learning curves, people will wonder whether you really do embrace change. Most of us are expected to say that, but do you really put those words into action?

When was the last time you demonstrated some personal vulnerability at work - in the interest of stretching yourself to make bigger impact? You cannot ask other people to stretch themselves when you never do the same. Is it time for you to climb onto a new learning curve?

The Ultimate Test. When all four essentials are in play, you will feel the difference in how people connect with you. If you are a newcomer to the team, let people help you find your way in. Don't be too proud to accept help, even if you are the new leader.

If you are in a new role, don't be too proud to ask advice from someone who was in your shoes one year ago. Or to seek some specific support when climbing the highest peaks on that learning curve.

To be wholehearted, you have to be transparent - which is the ultimate test in vulnerability. Wholehearted people don't mind putting their heart on the line for something that has to be said.