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Life & Philosophy

Intelligence. Labour. Caregiving. These Are The Essence of Existence

The imbalance has definitely led to the disaffection, dissatisfaction and alienation of millions of people.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

What is more important? How can we distribute the importance of each of the three factors that is Intelligence, Labour and Caregiving respectively? Is Intelligence over rewarded? If so, then why not? If that is the uprising question then we should be on the lookout of a severely imbalanced distribution of status and work in the current times!

The coronavirus pandemic revealed what we ought to have already known: that all our nurses, caregivers, supermarket workers, delivery drivers, cleaners, and so many others are essential and indispensable. Until recently, this work was largely regarded as menial and meagre by the same society that now lauds them as heroes and lifesavers.  So how did we get here?

Let’s divide our society into people who work with either their Heads (cognitive work/ Intelligence), with their Hands (manual work/ labour), or with their Hearts (caring work/ Caregiving), and let us consider each group’s changing status followed by influence! In a general scenario, it is the “the best and the brightest” trump over the “descent and hardworking.” 

Qualities such as character, compassion, craft, and physical labour command far less respect in our workforce. This imbalance has definitely led to the disaffection, dissatisfaction and alienation of millions of people.

Cognitive ability that is brain based skill has become the gold standard of human esteem, and those in the cognitive class now shape society largely in their own interest. To put it in a forthright way: smart people have become way too powerful!

A healthy democratic society does recognise, respect, and reward a broad range of achievement, and provides tremendous meaning, value and credence for people who cannot—or do not want to—achieve in the classroom followed by the professional career market in statistics and facts. We must certainly shift our thinking to see all categories of workers as essential, and not just during crises like the coronavirus pandemic!

Moreover, we are felicitous to confuse cognitive ability with moral worth. It does creep and crawl its way into the language of everyday life! As degrees become ubiquitous and omnipresent; a ‘cycle of credential inflation’ is the one which we undertake. The logical endpoint comes to that even janitors and babysitters require a PhD then. So in conjunction to the growth of bloated, second-rate universities, the status attached to the Hand and the Heart jobs have severely declined and rebuffed.

Consequently, it is observed that those who choose to live and work in the communities where they grew up often feel ‘left behind, fevered and diminished’. To get on with your worth you have to get out of your supposed comfort zone. Social mobility is not a bad thing at all.  However, are we offering it to those people arguably the majority who would prefer to stay put? The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society at large. So let’s dig deeper into the economic, political, and technological consequences of the very pandemic.

What has happened in recent times is that we have now effectively made up a single ladder rather than a single funnel, into that safe-life design of the professional class, as that is what it was meant to be. This very ladder propels one towards higher education. Now there is just a single ladder; there used to be lots of little ladders earlier!  You could get a promotion from below and steadily move upwards there on. 

You may not have been a very well educated and qualified person, but your talents and abilities were definitely recognized and you would be encouraged and promoted. Now, if you don’t have that initial credentialed of a three to four-year degree, you do not have a chance of getting into what one might call the kind of mass elite rather to amplify the mass cognitive elite!

This cognitive takeover that has thereby gathered its pace over the past forty years and resonated with a ripple effect! As recently as even the 1970s most people left school without any qualifications. However, now 40 percent of all jobs are graduate-only. Considering the advances made in machine intelligence, the knowledge economy will soon not need that many knowledge workers either!  All the while there have been claims of crisis recruitment in most of the care sector. 

We do observe that all have come to terms to value the “Head” too much. Cognitive ability has indeed become the gold standard of our human esteem and value. We have lost all our respect for the work done by “Hand”. And that calls out for those who do have the “Heart” required to be care-workers. We are not looking at those providing paid eldercare. 

How about the unpaid work of looking after our own children?  In the field of business, commercial and personal change, there is a pattern that keeps emerging, catapulting and propelling further. This precedential change is observed in seminars, psychology textbooks, assorted theories and models explicitly.

You may have come across it in other forms too broadly such as ‘cognitive, affective and behavioural’ (if you’re a psychologist) or, in a more common parlance and interface, ‘thinking, feeling and doing’. Let’s delve deep into the matter. 

First one: It was All about Hands

A century or so ago, psychology did emerge out of the evolving ‘age of enlightenment’. This is when science grew wings and truth was all what you could prove rather than what the local priest/ parish priest told you. Psychologists would seek the methods of natural sciences, where measurement, causality and proof formed the order of the day. They could not possibly measure what the brains were doing; they could analyze what people said and did though. This led to behaviourism developing as the first step along the way to prove a point.

Hard at the heels of the very psychological science came about the management science, which adopted all the behavioural principles. This is where people such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford viewed people and termed them as the ‘rational man’ for whom behaviour was directly correlated with external cues that come across majorly from the environment. Treat a person in a certain way and they will respond in the most predictable manner! In other words it was all about ‘hands’ then.

Hands Follow Head

Further developments and advancement in psychology found that to explain what people did, you had to unquestionably consider what they were actually thinking. This very much demonstrated the Game theory tripped over in the John Nash’s theory-of-mind equilibrium! Following that order Therapy went this way too in terms of direction, and this is how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recognizes how behaviour is so closely linked to thinking! Then management did follow suit, with motivation being more about getting people to understand the logic rather than just telling them what to do. And so we had the ‘hands follow head’.

Hands Follow Head and Heart

Yet with this we still had some problems. Psychologists had largely and erroneously ignored emotions for a long time as they were almost on the opposite end of the spectrum of rational thinking and were rather hard to measure. They steadily and progressively realized that how you feel is definitely real and cannot be ignored at all. 

For instance, if you are to treat an anxious person, it helps if you can first recognize and acknowledge an individual’s experience of anxiety. In the very field of management, emotions at last poked through, more notably in Daniel Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’. And so now we had ‘hands follow head and heart’ in that particular order!

Explain in one go or Enthuse First?

Is this the end? Well, not quite as yet. There is assuredly not another ‘H’ on the horizon, but what we are engaging in is that the relationship between head, hands and heart is not as simple as we first thought, it is in a way too complex.  For example, to get somebody to take action in a certain way, should you first appeal to their feelings and then explain it to them, or should you explain yourself first and then get them to be enthused? The answer seems to very depend on the circumstance and more so the particular individual.

So Let’s Consider Changing Actions, Changes Thoughts and Finally Feelings

In a curious reversion and then practice towards an original command idea, there is even a difference in opinion that you can possibly change what people think and feel, just by plainly getting them to act in a certain way. This is explained in Robert Cialdini’s classic ‘Influence’ book, where he talked of compliance, observation and consistency. 

This shows that if we have to do something, we definitely require changing our beliefs and what we feel about the same in order to justify our very actions. This helps explain to us some of the darker side of human behaviour, from say the unbeaten cruelty of prison guards to the conversion into brainwashing by mind control and coercive persuasion.

Engage the Head, Heart, and Hands for an Effective Change

So how do you use this phenomenon of cyclic change? In the contextual change, you really want to get to a full engagement of head, heart and hands. A path you can follow in order to identify the best first step for your situation. You first need to get them to think ‘This makes sense, so I feel good about it’, and then add in hands with either ‘I like the idea so I’ll give it a go’ or ‘It makes sense so I’ll give it a go’.

Whenever working in change and towards the same, you are trying to understand people or you are just trying to persuade them about something persistently. It can be very insightful; to consider all three H’s in your analysis, evaluation and planning. The key is that if you can get a person’s head, heart and hands all working in together, then you have the person in your very stride! 

Do You Lead With Your Head, Your Heart or Your Hands?

Do you lead with your head, your heart or your hand is the next emergent question? These three leadership styles help executives take steps to strengthen their respective dominant leadership styles.

Whether your natural leadership style is akin and comparable to a coach (leading with your heart), a visionary (leading with your head) or an executor (leading with your hands), your approach more likely has diverse benefits and even pitfalls. 

This explains the Power of CQ leading towards Culture Change that Sticks helping businesses lead towards categorical change. This implies that the contemporary leaders must have a high CQ, or a “change intelligence.”

Today’s marketplace is in a state of constant change, and successful companies are those that do respond and quickly adapt to the various changes around them. This in turn requires leaders who are able to lead with the head focussed on the big-picture goal and the business objectives; the heart naturally knows how to engage, coach and motivate people; and with your hands you provide the tactical and prudent tools and skills necessary like a project manager! This gives rise to a tremendous balance in the way of proper and structured functioning.

People tend to be stronger in one or two of such areas and way weaker in the others. So we need to identify our weak areas and work on strengthening them to a certain extent. That implies in turn that leaders question themselves if they should lead with their heads, hearts or hands.

To elaborate on this further:

Exhibited behaviours – the ones demonstrated by employees every day are merely on the surface that emerges, anchored towards the massive below-the-surface thoughts and emotions. This principle is most commonly referred to as: ‘The Iceberg Principle’.

The Iceberg Principle is a common sociological principle that illustrates the indisputable and irrefutable fact that merely 10% of culture is by far ‘surface culture’ (seen through various hard facts) and 90% of culture is much deeper (seen as emotional and subjective)  such as hidden, unspoken, even unconscious. This is how propagation gives rise to a full blown agenda!

In organisational culture, it is no different either. 10% of the culture is seen and observed. 90% of the culture remains hidden. When introducing and suggesting change, the organisational level is about merely scratching the surface, while the emotional level runs way too deep!

The deep cultural level on which the Head and the Heart exist is the very basis of how people tend to work.  It includes values (company and individual), norms (acceptable and unacceptable behaviours – both explicit and implicit), identity (connections and niche), as well as relationships and attitudes!

It is important to note that while each of the components (Head, Heart, and Hands) are critical towards the transformational process, the focus, depending on the change itself may require different levels of focus too. Since change is dynamic, the approach used to help further the change must also be dynamic!


The Head part of the change frame is a focus on the intellectual understanding of why the changes must take place. Employees have, over time, developed mental models and paradigms that shape their thinking and define their core behaviours. These mental models are not ‘bad’, just that some of them are simply expiring. By addressing the Head piece, there is somewhat of an unwinding that must occur as employees begin to reshape their understanding of what will make them – and ultimately, the organisation way to successful.

What employees want to know about the Head piece is laid down:

  • The mission – how has it altered and why?
  • Where are we going? Where will we end up?
  • How will we reach our destination?
  • What are our collective goals? Our team goals? My goal?
  • How are you so sure we can win this way?


The Heart piece is where emotion lives. This area defines motivation, attitude and commitment, and where determination abounds. This part is often the hardest to penetrate because it is deep down – the deepest part of that iceberg – and until you plunge into the water, you are uncertain how deep it really goes. Additionally, much of what is in the Heart is hidden, unspoken, unrevealed. As such, it must be unearthed, coaxed out to safe ground where it can be carefully addressed.

Without allowing space for the Heart to be revealed, the change cannot possibly occur. Whatever is not exposed cannot be dealt with, it remains in the dark, often coming out from the Head and the Hands piece and thwarting the change efforts. Whatever is in the light is exposed and can be properly addressed then. This is where true change occurs.

Most employees are dynamic and zestful individuals who have developed conviction over a period of time. This conviction has, overall, brought about resounding and massive success to their organisations. It is no small attainment to maintain the conviction while teaching employees to embrace something new and, arguably, to let go of things that have deeper meaning! Once the Heart piece is in place, though, and employees have refined their conviction and recommitted to the proposed alignment, the changes become far more palatable and dynamic.

What employees want to know about the Heart piece is as below:

  • What have I gained? What have I lost?
  • How will my relationships be impacted?
  • What am I risking? Is it too great of a risk?


The hands piece is the demonstrable and proven action that most specifically indicates where the change is occurring. The Hands piece is all about behaviours. These behaviours must be learned by the employees, shaped and moulded by the leadership in order to help everyone understand: “What am I supposed to do differently tomorrow?”

The Hands piece is much more than a mere process. It is much more than telling employees: “Here’s how you do this now.” Rather, it is a balancing act between the tools and teaching, the coaching and correcting, the challenges and feedback. The Hands piece is where resilience comes to the forefront and where leaders in turn must encourage, teach, coach and recognise the smallest of movement forward, celebrating another milestone in the transition towards change and the desired end-state.

Leading with your Head (The Visionary)

Almost a visionary in approach, people who lead more with their heads are focused on the larger picture. It’s almost a must-have for most leadership positions. If this is your natural style, you would be most likely to be driven by business objectives and growth. You will thoroughly enjoy planning and building for the future, and looking for new opportunities. You are very focused and goal-oriented too. This very clearly does become your primary measure of success. You are so driven; you will be able to clearly showcase tangible achievements. You will also be willing to take on most challenges and experiment, if it is indicated towards a longer-term goal.

The flip side however, is that you may be less likely to consider the impact of your choices and actions on softer aspects like people, habits, beliefs and culture. You may not even spend enough time understanding the individual needs and styles of your team members, or then drawing people into decision making, simply because you see this to be slowing down the overall process. While you will be quick to focus on achieving goals for sure, you won’t be too fussed and concerned about the ‘how’ of the process. That could possibly trip you!

Remember, it is not enough for you to craft a vision all by yourself. You must be able to leverage it to excite and inspire your team as well. Find a way to make them feel like they own the vision too. Also, do show them what this could look like in more real terms by detailing out a roadmap with milestones!

Leading with your Heart (The Coach)

Distinctly collaborative and inclusive, people, who lead with their hearts, thrive on energy from people, situations and relationships. Inspiring, compassionate and passionate, these leaders will get their teams to rally together and make decisions, make it a point to draw people into discussions and sometimes debates by actively encouraging different points of view.

If you identify with this leadership style, you probably make tradeoffs in order to prioritise people over processes. The dynamics in your team and the culture that you foster will turn out to be an end in itself. But you do run the risk of neglecting and sidelining the importance of longer-term planning and the need to achieve the goals. Your natural style probably doesn’t lend itself to indulge in difficult conversations. You may also tend to err on the side of brushing aside any conflict and not pushing people harder to complete tasks/ goals.

While there is no doubt that people are critical, you must also have these mutual efforts centred on a common purpose. Be careful to not allow performance to take a backseat!

Leading with your Hands (The Executor)

Executors, like the name suggests, excel at execution and implementation. People with this dominant style tend to be extremely efficient, and thrive on thorough planning. They do break the leadership stereotypes, roll up their sleeves and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty at all. They do plan extensively, almost painstakingly detail oriented tasks and then double down towards the last mile execution. These are people who you can count on to set very high performance standards and deliver against them!

So what do we conclude from all of this? 

I hope we understand the importance of all the three forces (Intelligence. Labour. Caregiving) and enable them to co-exist in the varied spectrum of work ethics, professionalism and dynamics. In order to embrace the Change Intelligence and thus do well in all the spheres by working out a superb official ecosystem.

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Written By

Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India. She is also an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a 1-on-1 basis.

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