Guest Blog: Leading with Clarity, Connection, and Courage by Jody Delie

May 19, 2020 10:10 AM | Anonymous member

Jody DieleJody Delie is one of SEWI-ATD's newer members.

She brings skills in strategic marketing, expert communication and storytelling to the chapter.

She states that her superpower is in relationship building.

Leading with Clarity, Connection, and Courage

What makes a great leader? During the May virtual event with Professional Executive Coach, Cindy Warner, we learned it’s all about leading with clarity, connection, and courage. Great leaders possess three keen abilities -- clarity of thought, capability to connect on an emotional level with others, and the courage to lead organizations forward. It’s an approach Warner calls “whole leadership.”

Why is the balance of these abilities so important? Organizations need effective leadership at many levels to have sustainable success. In the absence of effective leadership, people disengage, and the company vision and goals become much harder to achieve. So, how can we learn to lead more effectively? Cindy offers well-researched scientific answers.

Have you ever felt like you were coming from a completely different perspective than another leader? There is a valid reason for that. Did you know that we have three brains, not just one?Well, we do. Everyone has a default brain, yet the best leaders are those that connect and tap into all three brains. Let me explain.

First, there is a “Clarity Brain,” leading with your head. Its pros are logic, problem-solving, creativity, and verbal communication. People who lead with their clarity brain are often great at organizing, problem-solving, and navigating the world. Sometimes clarity brain leaders can be rigid in their thinking and can lack empathy because they are so focused on the thinking. Ever heard of analysis paralysis?

Next up is the “Courage Brain.” Have you ever heard of gut instinct? It originates quite literally in your core and digestive tract. Pros of people who lead with their gut are pragmatism, getting things done, making decisions and taking risks. Sometimes these leaders can be overly focused on getting things done and may lack patience for people who are not where they are. You might find them to be somewhat disorganized and could have typos in their emails.

The last brain is all about the heart. It’s the “Connection Brain.” Our heart brain has 5,000 times the electromagnetic force of our head brain. It seeks out, learns, and remembers things that intuitively matter to us in our life and our work. Our connection brain is where emotions begin. Where we learn empathy, collaboration, and inspiration. People who lead with heart tend to be warm, good social mixers, make others feel comfortable, are kind and thoughtful, and care about engagement. Conversely, those who lead with their heart brain can sometimes be passive aggressive with their feelings or can get stuck in emotion.

Ask yourself, which brain is the default for me and my organization? What is your most used method in leadership development – clarity, connection, or courage?

For many, the way we teach leadership development is mostly using clarity, especially in assessment. Our hearts and core don’t learn the same way our head does, they are not about logic and language. If we are trying to teach people connection and courage by using our head brain, we are using the wrong tool for the job. Think of it this way, we are trying to use a wrench to pound a nail. So, what can we do?

Awareness is a great place to start. To the best of your ability, meet those around you where they are to find common ground and build from there. Intentionally ask yourself and other leaders to engage in this deliberate thought process.

Consider the answers to these questions to guide your leadership decisions, approach talent development, and use this to communicate more effectively to all the brains who are listening:

Clarity: What do I think about this? What will they think about it?

Connection: How do I feel about it? How will they react?

Courage: What do I want to do about it? What do I want them to do with it/what action do I want them to take?

Always validate emotions. If someone is having a strong emotion, they need validation of that emotion. Refrain from saying, I know how you feel. You really don’t know how they feel, and it makes it about you, not about them. Meet them where they are first. They need their feelings heard before they can move on.

In coaching opportunities, meet them in their default and invite the other two brains to the table. Carefully coach them to think through situations with all three brains. You can do this by asking questions, “Would you explain your thought process?” “How do you feel about this?” “How will this affect culture or engagement?” “What are you going to do next?” These types of questions help build an action plan that accounts for all facets. Thank them for taking the time and end with statements that support their default brain.

Cindy has served as an executive coach and leadership development expert for more than two decades. To learn more about Cindy Warner, visit For a deeper view on this topic, check out her new book, Leading with Clarity, Connection & Courage.


  • May 21, 2020 8:14 AM | Anonymous
    Thank you for the summary, Jody. Interesting information and suggestions on what to do.
    Link  •  Reply
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