In my now 37 years in the business world, I’ve witnessed and participated in quite an evolution of what constitutes modern leadership. Yesterday’s business leaders put themselves on pedestals, separating themselves from those they lead, and from the humanity that existed beyond the office doors.
They were “bosses” in every sense of the word. They would stay inside what I called the “bossman box” – a persona that projected competence, confidence, and impermeability.
It was a predictable and reliable pattern of conduct, with defined rules of engagement that required, above all else, that any vulnerable trip wires are avoided at all costs, and a complete unconditional acceptance of “the rules” that came down from their pedestal.
Everything was laid out starkly – black or white. Impassivity reigned.It was a safe environment for a leader to work in. Really safe, in fact. But was totally, and utterly, uninspiring. I know, I was one of those uninspired people for the first 12 years of my career.
There was something so detached about that style. It was a true physical separation that put the emphasis on words and sounds, both written and spoken. But words and sounds and rules and orders aren’t enough.
They weren’t human enough.
In fact, they were barely human.
Thank goodness, things have changed and modern leadership is far different, but today’s leader needs to pay careful attention to the “human” that needs to be merged into the modern-day leadership paradigm.
Today’s successful more human leader makes a real personal connection with those they lead. In my practice I feel like I really need to look into the eyes of every single employee I have in my department/overview, even when there were 1,100 of them.
I want them to look into MY eyes, and see what’s inside – and see a leader that understands them, and respects them, and the work that they do.
Someone who understands that their work has meaning, meaning that goes beyond the office doors and positively effects their lives, and at the same time making a difference in our success or failure.
Someone who knows they matter.
But think about this for a second and compare it to the person on the pedestal. Can this really be communicated by mere words? Through an e-mail, text, conference call, or a poster?
Sure it can. It can be communicated. But can it be truly absorbed and understood? Can it be felt, as an exquisite merger of life and business?
Only if we succeed in today’s modern leadership challenge, and become more human.
It starts with building trust one person at a time – getting out of the office and going where the transactions take place, or the products get made.
It’s listening to their dreams and their fears.
It’s discerning what they value, and how they feel about work.
It’s knowing that like most humans, they want the same thing you want – a really good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
When you figure that out, and they SEE you wanting to figure that out, standing or sitting in front of them, or hanging out with them on the job, or chatting by the coffee pot, big breakthroughs can happen.
Mainly, you can ask for something that seems very counterintuitive to being more human, but isn’t at all. It’s the exquisite part of the merger, a delicate “thread of the needle” that puts everything in a higher echelon.
You can ask for a culture of accountability – a culture that can deliver outstanding results for a company and its ownership.
Because being more human doesn’t mean being more lenient. It means that you are absolutely and positively fair in how you lead.
Because you’ve connected at such a personal level, when you then stand up and ask for accountability, and then make the exquisite merger and explain that it’s necessary to not only make the company profitable (business), but to make them happy and fulfilled as employees (life), they’ll trust you, and follow along.
But then, you must deliver on that trust. First, everyone must know their role and their responsibilities, and why they matter. They must understand how they make a difference.
Then, high performance is publicly celebrated, and substandard performance is privately corrected. There are no playing favorites. And you hold yourself to the same standards.
With a great culture of accountability, more human leadership can thrive. Everyone has each other’s back. There’s a strong feeling of “team”, and friendships flourish. There are more smiles in the workrooms and hallways. Life is good, and it comes home with them.
Better still, the bars can keep being raised. High performers inspire higher performers. The need to be good is replaced with a relentless passion to be great.
Why? Because everybody loves going to work, and when that’s combined with the intoxication of success, there’s no limit to what a team can accomplish.
That’s what can happen when a leader embraces our modern age of leadership, gets off that pedestal (and tosses it in the trash), makes those critical connections, and makes the exquisite merger. That’s what happens when a leader makes it about “the team”, and not about “the company”.
And in any age or in any time, I’m utterly convinced that being more human is the only way you can achieve something truly extraordinary – a “success trifecta”: A great company, a happy team, and a fulfilled you.
All from that exquisite merger of life and business. What a beautiful, beautiful thing it is.
To find out more about More Human Leadership and dig a little deeper into the practice, take a trip HERE.