To succeed, lead with your heart and your mind

Lessons on conscious leadership from Gerrard Schmid, CEO of Diebold Nixdorf.

To succeed, lead with your heart and your mind

This pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on every facet of our lives. People and organizations continue to search for answers. In many companies, the strain of operating in this environment has dehumanized the culture. However, many top, global CEOs have found another way.

Gerrard Schmid is the CEO of Diebold Nixdorf, the largest manufacturer in the global ATM market. With 2019 revenues of over $4.2 billion and offices in more than 60 countries, he has been celebrated for his approach of leading with both heart and mind. He is a champion of taking a more conscious approach to leadership, and his organization continues to reap the benefits.

“Conscious leadership means something different to everyone, in part, because I think it’s a deeply personal journey.”

According to Schmid, conscious leadership is about deep, inward reflection, asking yourself the tough questions, and not hiding from the answers.

To be a conscious leader, Schmid advocates four key elements

Be Present

“Listen and observe as intently as possible and pay attention to what is going on in your surroundings. Otherwise, you can miss invaluable details, which puts you at risk for suboptimal decision-making and driving disengagement.”

In the current pandemic, listening to employees is more important now than ever before. Schmid also believes senior executives need to extend the idea of being present to customers as well, so you can best serve their current needs and anticipate what they may want from you in the future; both invaluable when operating in a constrained economic environment.

An equally important aspect of being present is to be aware of what you can control by focusing on those areas that you can influence while letting go of the rest. As Schmid observes, “Most leaders I know like the idea of being in control. One thing that COVID has ultimately taught all of us is how little we actually control, other than our own actions.”

Be Courageous

This involves looking inside yourself and shining the spotlight on some of the areas that make us uncomfortable. We must be prepared to stand up and make difficult choices. “Leadership is a role of obligation, which means we have to deal with difficult topics that others may shy away from.”

Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability entails the willingness to be open with the people around you. Schmid admits this is not always easy and it continues to be one of his own areas for growth. Despite his desire to lead consciously, this skill takes ongoing focus.

Although it may seem foreign to leaders, being vulnerable is saying “I don’t know the answer” or “I’m scared,” or “I have a point of view that you may not like or agree with, but I’d like to share it.” This makes leaders more human and deepens their relationships and drives engagement. While some may be uncomfortable at first, Schmid believes organizations must embrace this philosophy as we move into the future to get the best out of their people and themselves.

Lead with the Heart and the Mind

Despite his belief in the importance of deep reflection and following a human-centric approach, Schmid does not believe that leadership can only be about leading from the heart.

“This is such a complex time where deep analytic insight is required to make wise decisions for how to move forward. Conscious leadership has to embody both a focus on data driven decisions and also never forgetting about the human element, which means bringing our heart into decision making, and sitting with the implications of our choices, especially those that are most uncomfortable.”


One of the consequences of this pandemic has been a re-evaluation of how we approach many things, including leadership. As organizations search for ways to inspire the best in their people, leveraging the power of conscious leadership can support a human-centric and high-performing organization.