Are human skills becoming obsolete? With the increasing pace of technological advancement through AI tools such as ChatGPT, it’s not an outlandish question to ask. AI can now write essays on almost any topic, unpack complex ideas, solve tricky maths problems… and even construct jokes (admittedly, not very good ones).
Despite these innovations, many of which offer enticing efficiencies for businesses, it remains clear that we still need human leadership, and humanity at work, more than ever. People are looking to work as a means of fulfilment in all aspects of their lives, demanding a deeper, more inclusive and more human workplace experience.
Meeting that demand is not only good for individuals, helping them to thrive and flourish, but good for business as well. According to research by McKinsey, organisations that focus on the human experience are twice as likely to outperform their peers over a three-year period.
Creating these more human workplaces means we need to focus on developing more human leadership. A human leader is an authentic and inclusive role model who creates meaningful connections with and between others. These are the leaders we need to create our future, building sustainable, resilient, purpose-driven and innovative organisations. And they all share these four key attributes…
1 Leading authentically
Human leaders are authentic leaders. They have a clear sense of their own knowledge, skills, strengths and motivators, and are able to leverage these to get the best out of themselves and those around them. They are guided by a deep sense of purpose, knowing what drives them and what their intrinsic values are. Being authentic means having strong self-awareness: they behave consistently and are able to manage their own wellbeing. This consistency boosts trust from those around them and creates a stronger sense of psychological safety within the team and wider organisation.
2 Leading inclusively
Human leaders recognise the power and value of difference in organisations. Their self-awareness leads to strong other-awareness, which in turn contributes to the creation of genuinely inclusive cultures, as these leaders understand and appreciate the unique strengths and attributes of those around them. Demonstrating inclusive leadership means being curious and without judgement, actively listening to others and seeking to understand their point of view, ideas, strengths and drivers. And it means giving people a voice, in a safe space, to contribute. All this adds up to creating a powerful culture of belonging.
3 Leading with integrity as a role model
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” This David Morrison quote sums up human leaders, who understand the importance of role-modelling, whether that be through speaking up for and modelling ethical behaviour or demonstrating through their actions that personal wellbeing is a vital component of flourishing at work (taking proper breaks, for instance). Individuals who lead with integrity are transparent and honest about their boundaries and create a clear pathway for others to follow.
4 Leading as a human connector
AI is becoming more advanced and more human-seeming with every passing day. Leaders need to address the risk of us losing the art of meaningful human connection in an increasingly digital world. While technological evolutions should be embraced for some of the opportunities they can bring, we must keep the human front and centre. Collaborating, connecting, inspiring are all uniquely human traits, and they are traits we cannot leave behind. Human leaders understand this deeply and invest time and energy in building respectful relationships, connecting others and uniting people.
Just for fun, we asked ChatGPT to write about human leadership. Here’s what it said: “While technology has made significant strides in improving efficiency and productivity, it cannot replace the value of human leadership. Leadership involves guiding and inspiring a team towards a common goal, and it requires emotional intelligence, communication skills, and critical thinking abilities that machines simply do not possess.”
When even the machines believe it can’t easily be replaced, it’s time to invest in building our human leadership skills…