Does “touchy-feely” have a place in leadership?

by Sandy Burgham, Founder Play Colab.

Do feelings have a place in leadership? Clearly, yes but in what passes as leadership often a “thinking” narrative is more socially acceptable. Even Myers Briggs research show that Thinkers  outnumber Feelers in top leadership positions by 75%. So do Thinkers actually make better leaders? Or do they just suit the current system, which coincidentally favors men way more in the upper echelons. Is the system sexist? Perhaps not overtly, perhaps it is because “feelings” are feminized and hence seen as not the ticket to progression. Simply put “feelings” are undervalued.

The dichotomy here is that when we consider leadership as serving a higher purpose than oneself, concepts such as “authenticity”, “vulnerability” and “consciousness” start coming into play. And these start moving dangerously into an area known as “touchy feely”.

Play Colab is one of the few if not the only contemporary leadership group that is specifically looking to work with “men in leadership” not because they are sub-par but because we believe that they have particular needs as a group in the era where there are many women in leadership programmes (we work with women in parallel).

In our first public  programme with men, my collaborator Dr Peter Blyde and I deliberately used the word FEEL in our questioning and delivery. This may not have been obvious to the men themselves but we found it had a huge impact when we played with the language we used. The conversations went far deeper; the shift in consciousness was almost visceral. (FYI the impact of the programme has made us even more committed to serving the needs of both genders in leadership and hence is a deliberate part of what we offer).

Hence to demonstrate the place of FEELINGS in leadership I am sharing the groundbreaking 6-minute submission by children’s television maker Fred Rogers to the US Senate in 1969 when President Nixon was announced he was going to cut public broadcasting funding by US$20million, a big sum in the day.

In a quietly composed manner Mr Rogers spoke of feelings which gave even the most hardened, unsentimental Senator “goosebumps”. And with no threat to either’s masculinity. I urge you to watch this as a demonstration of authenticity, vulnerability and consciousness and consider the power of feelings in the ability to influence for greater good. Spoiler alert – in 6 minutes Mr Rogers successfully halted Nixon’s intent. (Take a look – you might want to grab a box of tissues first).

As Maya Angelou once said:

 I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.


By Sandy Burgham, Founder Play Colab










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