A More Human Leader

“We now have a new way of defining our success. At Barry-Wehmiller, we measure success by the way we touch the lives of people.”   — Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review titled “Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?” – the authors surveyed and interviewed around 1,000 leaders and reached the conclusion that today, more than ever before, it is imperative to be human if a manager is going to become a great leader.

Most leaders do see themselves as motivating and inspirational figures – over 70% are convinced of their own success – according to a McKinsey survey conducted among leaders in the US. But it seems their employees aren’t in agreement.  In a Gallup survey, 82% of respondents found their leaders to be exceedingly uninspiring. Obviously, many leaders are currently failing to meet their employees needs and expectations as human-beings.

This is a gap that needs to be addressed urgently. When people are happy and motivated, they are more committed to their work and ultimately more productive. A McKinsey study backed up this link with data.

They found that when employees are intrinsically motivated, their commitment increases by 32% while their performance jumps by 16%. Thus, simply by not being human enough, leaders could be costing their organizations quite a bit… as well as risking their own career growth.

The authors of “Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?” explain that a global transformation is now taking place in the senior ranks of many companies across the world. Leadership at these organizations are putting serious thought and effort into creating a culture that places people at the center and cultivating more human leadership. The end objective is to boost job engagement and fulfilment – for both employees as well as leaders. Here are a few ways in which you can become a more human leader, as recommended by the authors:

  1. Be Personal – We need to take the “just business” term out of our business vocabulary and make things personal again. We must move beyond the logical and tactical realm, and make sure we also account for the emotional and personal impact. To move away from away a sometimes emotionless, robotic leadership culture, it is imperative for us to treat each other as human beings.
  2. Be Self-Aware – Effective human leadership begins with greater self-knowledge. If you cannot understand and manage yourself, how
    can you understand and manage other people? Self-awareness is the first step towards becoming more empathetic. When you get in touch with your own feelings and motivations, you also enhance your ability to better understand and relate to others.
  3. Be Selfless – Selflessness is the bedrock of human leadership. This means putting yourself aside and considering the long-term impact on your team members. Is the decision in their best interests? Will they and the organization do better as a result?
  4. Be Compassionate – A compassionate leader wants you to flourish and always has your back. If you’ve been lucky enough to work with such a person, you know that such leadership can fundamentally change the way people approach their work. Leading with compassion makes your team feel safe, thus increasing their loyalty and commitment towards you as well as the organization. The authors recommend a great way to be more compassionate on a day-to-day basis: Make a habit of asking one simple question whenever you engage with anyone: How can I help this person have a better day?

Being a more successful as a leader really comes down to being more successful as a human leading humans.  

Recommended actions you can take…

  • When you engage with another person ask “How can I help this person have a better day?”
  • At the beginning of each day, ask yourself “What actions can I take to become more human in my leadership today?”
  • Reflect at the end of your work week by asking yourself “How did I show up as a more human leader this week?”

Related resources to learn more…

TEDx Video – Truly Human Leadership: Bob Chapman

Harvard Business Review ArticleWhy Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?

McKinsey SurveyThe Value of Centered Leadership

Gallup SurveyEmployees Want a Lot More From Their Managers

McKinsey StudyWhy Frontline Workers are Disengaged

Here’s to your journey!


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