What does human leadership really look like?

By Holly Holm-Powell

“The shift from survive to thrive depends on an organisation becoming, and remaining, distinctly human at its core. This isn’t just a different way of thinking and acting. It’s a different way of being.”
Deloitte, 2021

Over the past couple of years, our leaders and managers have really had to step up and take on challenges without really knowing what was going on themselves. In my experience, I’ve started to rely on my managers and leaders more for emotional support over and above career development guidance or skills-based support – and this must be pretty time consuming for them when I’m not the only person they’re supporting.

Research by Gartner suggests that in the very near future, more and more managerial tasks will be automated which should give room for the human relationships side of leadership. To enable and empower leaders and managers to focus on this and to do so effectively (after all, it’s not about our managers being our friends, right?), let’s get them thinking and behaving more humanly.

Often, people expect leaders and managers to have all the answers. I truly believe, however, there’s great power in saying, “I don’t know.” The pandemic is a great illustration of this where we were all trying to operate in great uncertainty and ambiguity no matter what our job or role was. If I was a leader, in the context of this pandemic or otherwise, I know I’d definitely never always have the answers. But what I would want to do is to feel comfortable enough to admit this, find someone who did have the answers or work with my peers and colleagues to come up with a solution together. To be, summarised in one word, authentic.

Looking forward, organisations are setting important and ambitious diversity, equality and inclusion strategies and leaders and managers are vital to the success of these. We know that 83% of Gen Z would choose an empathetic culture over higher pay when looking at employers (Businessolver 2020 State of Workplace Empathy report), so it’s clear that feeling valued and listened to are crucial. For leaders and managers, this translates into being curious about individuals: what are everyone’s strengths? what matters to them right now and in the future? and how does everyone uniquely contribute to what we’re trying to achieve?

Some of the key challenges we’re hearing from leaders are:

– Leading remote and hybrid teams
– Having to have difficult conversations
– Navigating change in teams and organisations
– Maintaining own wellbeing and resilience
– Becoming leaders and managers for the first time

To me, being a more human leader is being authentic, open, inclusive and empathetic. And with these skills under our belts, any of the challenges highlighted above are easily overcome. If we’re inclusive and curious we can have those difficult conversations and lead hybrid teams. If we’re authentic it can help us to work out how to navigate change and look after our wellbeing. For leaders and managers who are new to role, human leadership principles give a great basis for tackling what we’re about to face. So let’s start championing these and building up the knowledge and skills of our leaders and managers to be more human.

Get in touch if you want to hear more about how we’re doing this at Bailey & French – and how we can help you.