top of page
  • Writer's pictureJake Breeden

Heart Healthy Leadership

Have you ever started a Google search afraid of what you might find?


Late in October 2023 I searched “chest pains,” “walking uphill," and "heavy pressure in center of chest." I hoped for some reassurance and maybe an ad for Pepto Bismal™. Instead my results were full of troubling phrases like “signs of a heart attack” and “myocardial infarction."


I went to urgent care, who told me to go to the ER, who told me I was going to be admitted. I tried doing the denial thing at the hospital, but the cardiology team at Duke were pretty clear: I was in the midst of a heart attack. Soon I became one of 2 million people who got a heart stent in 2023.

Fast forward a few months and I’ve changed my relationship with food, exercise, health care and work.

Jake holds his certificate of graduation from Duke Cardiac Rehab. December 29, 2023.

And as someone who has coached leaders for the past 20+ years, I have begun to change my point of view on leadership development. That’s right, I’m turning my heart attack into content. Here are three things I believe to be true about heart healthy leadership:


  1. Heart healthy leaders motivate action without creating stress for themselves or others. Instead of passion — which comes from the Latin word for suffering — they create the conditions for sustainable work. 

  2. Heart healthy leaders find alignment in themselves and others. Creating alignment between personal values, strengths and the work that needs to be done promotes alignment between short-term performance and long-term health. 

  3. Heart healthy leaders role model healthy habits. That means, for example, less focus on alcohol at social events and more walking meetings.


I'll be doing more writing and research on this topic in 2024, so more to come later. For now, if you’re a leader, just know that you have the ability to affect the heart health of your team. Please use that power wisely. Stay healthy.

P.S. Shout out to the Medtronic Onyx Frontier™ stent for keeping my ticker ticking.

95 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page