Every true act of leadership has only one purpose: to make life better.
As such, leadership is rooted in our humanity.
It is curious then that so often we hide ourselves within a professional mask of what we think we ought to do and be, only to lose connection with both ourselves and the people we are meant to serve—up, down, across, and both inside and outside of our organization.
When we approach leadership (or any endeavour in which we seek to work well with and through other people) via mechanical methods, we generally miss the mark entirely.
There are a lot of good leaders today. However, too often they lack the one quality that would make them truly great: their humanity.
Leading with humanity is not always well understood, so let me give you specific examples that you can take action on today (and every day).
After all, knowledge is only useful if it is applied in the real world.
1. Transparent Communication: Be open and transparent about updates, challenges, and victories. If you don’t have all the answers, admit it. This kind of vulnerability can foster an environment of honesty and trust. Example: “I want to share with you that we’ve had a significant setback in our project. We’re still figuring out the next steps, but I wanted you to hear it from me first.”
2. Empathetic Listening: Actively listen to the thoughts, ideas, fears, and concerns of others. This involves understanding the emotions behind their words, showing them that you appreciate their experience. Example: “I can hear that you’re feeling overwhelmed with this project. What would make this more manageable for you?”
3. Personal and Professional Growth Opportunities: Offer opportunities for personal and professional development, demonstrate your concern for your team’s greatest future success, not just their task performance. Example: “I’ve noticed you’ve been interested in digital marketing. Would you like to take a lead on the next campaign to develop your skills in this area?”
4. Inclusive Decision Making: Encourage input and decision-making from others. This gives value to everyone’s perspectives and ideas and increases their sense of belonging, engagement, and ownership. Example: “Before we move forward, I want to hear from everyone. What thoughts or insights can you share?”
5. Encourage Work-Life Balance: Remind others to take care of their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This could involve flexible work hours, regular breaks, or even mental health resources. Example: “Remember, it’s important to take care of your well-being. If you need to adjust your working hours to accommodate personal needs, please feel free to discuss it with me.”
6. Promote a Culture of Respect: Treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their position. It is what the greatest leaders have always done. This can be as simple as greeting each team member or acknowledging everyone’s contribution to a project. Example: “I want to highlight the fantastic work by our interns on this project. Their contributions were invaluable, and we couldn’t have achieved this without them.”
7. Offer Support During Difficult Times: Notice when others are struggling. If a team member is going through a tough time (personally or professionally), offer your support. This can be through offering time off, resources, or taking a moment to acknowledge all they are dealing with. Example: “I know that you’re going through a tough time right now. What do you most need this week/month?”
8. Provide Constructive Feedback: Provide feedback in a way that helps others grow and learn. Errors are opportunities to learn and grow rather than being only failures. Example: “While your presentation has some good points, it needs to have significantly more impact to connect with this demanding audience. Let me give you examples of what I mean exactly.”
9. Lead by Example: Adopt the behaviours you want to see in your team – whether it’s admitting a mistake, demonstrating empathy in your interactions, or being open about your struggles with work-life balance. Example: “I am so sorry. I just realized that I made a mistake in our financial report. I will rectify it and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. It’s important that we all feel safe to admit and learn from our mistakes.”
10. Prioritize Ethical Conduct: Model a strong commitment to ethics, making decisions that are not only beneficial for your work but also socially responsible. This could mean anything from standing against discriminatory practices to advocating for environmental sustainability. Example: “In our pursuit for growth, we must remember to uphold our ethical guidelines. This means we’ll not hesitate to turn down projects that don’t align with our values, even if they are profitable.”
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.