By being more human, I could make a difference.
I put it into practice at my company, by showing care, embracing humanity, and exercising humility even though it flied in the face of what we’ve traditionally expected our leaders to do.
I wanted to make a personal connection with every employee, even though there were 1,100 of them, scattered around four states in the western US. I got out of my office and traveled to where the transactions took place, and our customers were served.
I listened to their dreams and their fears. I discerned what they valued, and how they felt about work.
I realized that like most humans, they want the same thing you want – a really good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Then, we asked them for something that at first glance seemed very counterintuitive to being more human, but in the end, was the most human thing we did.
We asked for, and got, a culture of accountability at all levels of the organization, which enabled us to sustain a level of high performance that exceeded what ever could have been achieved through traditional “command & control” leadership.
We got it because we were connected at a personal level, and so when I stood up and asked for accountability, and explained that it was necessary to not only make the company profitable, but to make them happy and fulfilled as employees, they trusted me, and followed along.
Six years later, we hit what I believe is the heart of great leadership – what I call “the success trifecta”:
A successful company
Builds a happy team
That results in a fulfilled YOU.
It was fantastic to get to that place of fulfillment. Along the way I learned SO many things about leadership and what more human leadership can do, because I had the honor of actually DOING it.
It was a wonderful leadership laboratory, and during my journey I stuck with 8 guiding leadership principles that are the bedrocks of being more human:
- Crossing the bridge from “I” to “We” – It can’t be about you – it’s about a team
- Asking for trust and keeping your promises – Integrity is an absolute must
- Establishing a mantra of key values – It’s the glue that holds all of us together
- Finding and teaching more human leaders – The legacy must be passed on; we can’t do it ourselves
- Building a culture of accountability – It’s all about fairness and shared responsibility
- Measuring, monitoring and managing with the right metrics – The team needs to know where they stand, and what they are aiming for
- Fighting complacency and the naysayers – Inertia is a momentum killer, as well as those who still desire the old ways
- Connecting it all to a higher purpose – Humans want to be a part of a meaningful cause that’s bigger then themselves
This is the path I chose, one with its share of setbacks, challenges and tests of my will to succeed. But through those trying times I also discovered that by staying more human, the connections I had made with my teammates only deepened.
I put myself out there, not a business facsimile (who I like to call “bossman”). I made myself vulnerable by admitting I wasn’t perfect, or that my way wasn’t the only way, and showing emotions like empathy, caring, and yes, even love.
“Love” and “Care” are words not usually spoken in the hallways and boardrooms of the business world, but for a more human leader, they are most important things of all. The trifecta cannot happen without them.
The funny thing is, this is not a new concept when it comes to great leadership. In one of the oldest leadership books out there, “The Art of War” (it goes back to the 6th Century BC), Sun Tzu said;
“He treats them as his own beloved sons and they will stand by him until death.”
You too can get to the trifecta, and be the great leader that you aspire to be.
All you have to be is more human.
(Download a PDF poster of the 8 Principles HERE)
(HERE is a summary of related posts providing further background on the 8 Principles)