Career Trends: Becoming a More Humane Leader

5 min read

Edition: December 6th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

The first big step is to unlearn what you might think “leadership” means and to relearn what it means to be human. (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

As a leader, how you do the hard things that come with taking on the responsibility of leadership, while remaining a good human being is an eternal conundrum for all leaders. Most of us think we have to make a difficult, binary choice between being a good person or being a tough, effective leader. This is a false dichotomy. Being human and making hard leadership decisions are not mutually exclusive.

In truth, doing hard things is often the most human thing to do. There are two key ingredients: wisdom and compassion.

Leadership has got nothing to do with your age and how many years you’ve been working. One can also be a student leader, you can also display these leadership qualities as a young professional working in a company.

Wise compassionate leadership, with wisdom is defined as a deep understanding of what motivates people and the courage to be transparent and to do what needs to be done, even when it is uncomfortable; and compassion as the quality of showing genuine care and concern for others, with a positive intention to support and help.

However, actually leading with this combination of wisdom and compassion isn’t easy. It takes learning and practice. The first big step is to unlearn what you might think “leadership” means and to relearn what it means to be human.

Management is about managing others, about exercising executive control over people. Leadership, on the other hand, is about seeing and hearing others, setting a direction, and then letting go of controlling what happens next.

To foster this type of leadership approach, it is critical to acknowledge that we are not our job titles, we are human beings, wanting to connect on a human level with other people.

Here are four ways to bring more humanity to your leadership.

1. Remember the Golden Rule. 

  • Compassion, at its root, is a desire to see others happy and a readiness to take action to help it happen.
  • This is basically an expression of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. 
  • The Golden Rule is a helpful step for putting wise compassion in action since it requires the consideration of another person’s point of view.
  • When we are able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we can take a fresh look at a challenging situation.
  • Although putting yourself in another person’s shoes is good for reflection, it is important to avoid thinking you know what the other person is feeling or experiencing.
  • This is especially true in today’s increasingly diverse work environment.
  • We need to balance putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes with not assuming we understand their reality, which requires good listening.

2. Listen intently. 

  • We have two ears but only one mouth. This means we can—and should—listen twice as much as we speak.
  • When you truly listen to others, they feel heard and seen, which satisfies one of our primary needs as humans.
  • If you can listen intently, with an open mind and a willingness to learn, not only will you become wiser, but you can genuinely help others.
  • If you have an important conversation coming up, take extra time to prepare.
  • This can mean establishing the right kind of environment so that you can be fully present or setting an intention to really hear and feel what the other person wants and feels versus focusing on fixing a problem.

3. Ask yourself, how can I be of benefit? 

  • A Chinese proverb says, “There is no way to compassion; compassion is the way.”
  • Asking how you can be of benefit to others, though, is a “way to compassion.”
  • Whenever you are about to engage with someone, take a moment to reflect on what might be going on for this person.
  • Reflecting on what might people want before you meet people will help create a more human interaction focused on their growth and development.

4. Stretch people to see their potential.

  • We all want to perform and be appreciated.
  • A good leader values who we are today but also challenges us to stretch ourselves and do better to realise more of our true potential.
  • This is not easy. When someone is already doing well, pushing them to do better can be discouraging and demotivating.
  • But leadership is not about trying to please people and make them feel content and at ease.
  • Leadership is about supporting people by shining a light on things they may not want to face.
  • Instead of shying away from these uncomfortable conversations, try to view your role to stretch people as an indication of true care for them.

As leaders, we should never underestimate the impact we have on people. This makes it of the utmost importance to do the hard work of leadership in a human way, so that we can be more successful in positively impacting people’s work experience, their sense of commitment, and their job performance.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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