Have you ever been a part of an organization in which you felt like a dispensable or replaceable piece of the machine, in which you felt like management couldn’t care less about you or your co-workers, but instead they focused only on results, outputs, and profits? How did it make you feel? And how did it affect your performance at your job?
If you’re like so many other people in this situation, you probably felt discouraged and resentful. Even if you continued to do a satisfactory job, did you push yourself to do a great job? Were you motivated to bring 110% to the workplace, to innovate, and to be the best that you could be?
Introducing Human-Centered Leadership
This harmful way of doing business, known as results-centered leadership, is not a sustainable practice and won’t cut it in the complex markets of the 21stcentury. That’s why I asked Anthony Howard to join me at the Systemic Leadership Summit to talk about human-centered leadership. Mr. Howard is a CEO, entrepreneur, thought leader, philosopher, and author of the book Humanise: Why Human-Centered Leadership is the Key to the 21stCentury.
He explained that, in result-centered businesses, “we’ve been treated as a means to an end, as merely someone who can be used to deliver result for organization,” and goes on to claim that “you should approach that in a human-centeredkind of way. You should say, in everything we do, let’s make sure we’re caring for people and we’re creating an environment in which people can flourish. My view is when we do that we will release people and liberate people, and, when you create an environment where people feel free to be their best, give their best, become their best, then they will, in fact, become the best, they will change, grow, develop.” Human-centered leadership isn’t just for the good of the employees; it’s actually a better long-term strategy for creating a sustainable and profitable business.
One of the most important aspects of human-centered leadership is inducing growth in individuals throughout the organization. We as leaders want to grow, to change and adapt, but even beyond that we want to be a catalyst that will help our employees to grow as well. The truth is that, when everyone in the organization grows, then the organization itself, at a systemic level, grows as well. This growth ultimately goes straight to the bottom line.
Plus, as soon as we bring human beings into the conversation, says Mr. Howard, our conversation takes on a question of ethics. He continues, “There are organizations in the world that have said, you know, we will focus on people, we will do the right thing by people, and our view is that profit will flow from that as a result of looking after people. We might not make as much profit as someone who’s just completely greedy and just completely focused on making whole lot of money, but seriously is that kind of organization that we’re trying to build?” Think about the world you want to live in, the kind of environment that you want to create, and shape your organization according to that vision.
Sustainability and Innovation
Two of the main benefits that organizations see when they implement human-centered leadership is sustainability and innovation. As we mentioned before, the first of these is a result of growth both at the individual and the organization level. Even beyond encouraging growth, by creating a healthy environment where people want to show up and bring their full selves, we make a space that people want to keep alive and well.
When it comes to innovation, on the other hand, this is a result of people being able to explore different ideas, ways of doing things, and even places. For example, a results-centered organization may only promote an employee’s business trip, but a human-centered one sees the benefits of an employee traveling for the sake of expanding one’s horizons by learning and experiencing new things. As Mr. Howard puts this insight, “Innovation is actually putting together two or more disconnected ideas, and the only way you can get a disconnected idea is to get an idea you’ve got and add it with an idea from a different place.”
Becoming a Human-Centered Leader
Now, you may be wondering: how can I, as a leader, shift my approach to a human-centered one? Luckily for us, Mr. Howard gives us three questions that we can ask ourselves, and the answers that we give will guide us forward.
“The first question you have to answer is what kind of organization do I need to build to succeed in the future?” Try to imagine what your organization looks look in six months, in a year, in five years, and in a decade to form a vision that you can follow.
“The second question is what kind of leader do you need to be to lead that organization and what kind of leadership strategy do we need within the organization?” Now we ask ourselves how we can attain that vision. We plan out a strategy.
“The third question is what kind of person do you need to be to be that kind of leader?” The final step is looking inward, knowing yourself, and asking yourself how you, as a person, can grow and adapt to implement that strategy.
Mr. Howard concludes, “If you find answers to those questions, you’ll build the kind of organization you need to build to be sustainable in the 21stcentury.”
When we take a human-centered approach, we take care of our people and let the results follow. Our organization is made up of people, and so it only makes sense that, by focusing on them and enabling them to be the best that they can be, we in turn affect real systemic change on the entire organization.