The Importance of Human-Centric Leadership
Do your leaders understand what all your employees are dealing with? Do they make time to learn that each day?
Because supporting people and nurturing a healthy culture through human-centric leadership isn't just ‘nice’ – it’s also deeply strategic.
Understanding the Concept of Human-Centric Leadership
Defining Human-Centric Leadership
Often called ‘people-first leadership’, the definition of human-centric leadership is fairly simple: it puts people first. People first. Results second.
For many decades, growth, shareholder value creation, profit, and innovation were the primary objectives for any business, and compassion in a leader was even seen as weakness. The worker bees were there to make honey. Those days are (thankfully) coming to an end.
Human-centric leadership is about understanding what employees need to do their best and be their best — then developing, inspiring, and empowering them to reach their full potential.
The Evolution of Leadership Styles through the generations
Baby boomers value loyalty and hard work. Generation X values work-life balance and independence. Millennials value purpose and collaboration. It’s Generation Z who are now changing the workplace as we know it. They value growth and development, diversity, and social responsibility – people-first leadership (Office Reality).
We are what we value. Our parents and teachers and first bosses tend to guide our values, and then the environment adds new dimensions to what we value. It happened during WW2, 9/11, and most recently, during Covid.
As the war for limited talent intensifies, leadership with empathy – where each employee's unique skills, perspectives, and aspirations are valued, and leaders treat people with a greater sense of humanity leads to a sense of belonging – will be an important differentiator.
The Role of Human-Centric Leadership in Business Performance
Impact on Organizational Goals
Younger generations of employees are more focused on their values and ensuring the company they work for is aligned with those values. As DX often say, ‘culture is a mirror of leadership’. Leadership is driven by values. They drive how you behave. This leads to either a positive – or negative – experience. There is no net neutral experience. You are always creating cultural value or destroying it. Values alignment is the new cultural frontier.
As leaders navigated the pandemic with their teams, many grew in empathy, and we saw that genuinely caring for and nurturing people didn’t take the focus away from business goals – it spurred people toward greater success.
Case Studies: Successful Implementation of Human-Centric Leadership
We worked with The Oncology Institute to help make culture their differentiator. “Culture is a very complex thing, and DX has helped to simplify it.”
“It really does drive business results. People are happier. They're more engaged. I really do believe we're going to see CARE in our company results. We're going to see it in our engagement scores. We're going to see it in our retention with our teammates.”
Patagonia is another positive example of human-centric leadership. Its flat organizational structure and open communication policies encourage collaboration and teamwork across departments, its leaders prioritize transparency and ethical decision-making. They listen to what employees need, instead of what they think they need, to build trust and a sense of shared purpose.
The Impact of Human-Centric Leadership on Employee Satisfaction
Employee Engagement and Human-Centric Leadership
90% of US workers agree employee-centered leadership brings higher job satisfaction, and 79% that it decreases employee turnover (Ernst & Young). Many employees would leave their jobs for one that (PEW research):
• Better supports their well-being (79%)
• Gives them more control over when they work (72%)
• Better supports their professional growth and development (69%)
• Allows them to do more meaningful work (68%)
The Role of Empathy & Inclusion in Leadership
Imagine human-centric leaders as gardeners tending a diverse garden, recognizing each person as a unique flower, and carefully creating an environment for each person to blossom.
No one person can know it all. Human-centric leaders cement a growth mindset, and listen, learn, and understand what others are experiencing. This inclusive leadership builds a workplace where people feel safe and empowered to be themselves. Inclusive leadership sees 29% of employees reporting high levels of collaboration and 17%, high levels of productivity (HBR).
When employees experience leadership with empathy (Ernst & Young):
• 87% see their efficiency increase.
• 86% report increased innovation.
• 87% experience greater creativity
• 81% believe there’s an increase in overall profit.
How to Foster a Human-Centric Leadership Style in Your Organization
Steps to Implement Human-Centric Leadership
“Treat people as they want to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
It needs to come from the heart. Like all other muscles, the heart needs exercise. Human-oriented leadership means:
- Self-awareness. Empathy starts with awareness. Leaders must be aware of their own biases to create a diverse and inclusive culture.
- Communicating openly to build trust. Human-centric leadership is about connecting to your people. Think transparency over control, relationships over hierarchies, and well-being over productivity.
- Soliciting and acting upon feedback. Consider viewpoints that might challenge their own and commit to act and evolve. Ask thoughtful questions and give people room to express themselves.
- Creating psychological safety. Employees need to feel valued, respected, and safe to speak their minds, share ideas and concerns, and bring their authentic selves to the workplace. Cultivating a sense of belonging will see employees go that extra mile.
- Valuing individuality. Seek out new perspectives and lead in a way that appreciates, attracts, and leverages the diverse strengths of every team member.|
- Embracing a growth mindset. The vulnerability that comes from seeing challenges as learning curves creates a culture of continuous learning, where everyone feels safe to step outside their comfort zone.
- Coaching versus managing. Instead of micromanaging, equip employees with the right skills to create and innovate. Check-in regularly and ask how you can support them and meet their different needs.
Overcoming Challenges in ImplementationAlthough 90% of leaders understand the need for human-centric leadership, only 29% of employees agree that their leader is people-centric (Gartner).
A lack of psychological safety, and an atmosphere of distrust and fear, cannot be fixed overnight. One of the biggest challenges organizations face is changing the way people think about leadership. When leaders are seen as scary figureheads, supporting siloed environments where teams work in isolation, it can lead to a lack of trust and cooperation all around.
It’s essential to empower leaders at all levels, so they know where to focus their energies and how to understand employees as human beings, with a deeper sense of what their goals and challenges are.
Leaders who put these human-oriented leadership steps into practice, to redefine leadership and workplace culture, will inspire other leaders to do the same.
Get in touch and let’s discuss how DX’s leadership training programs, and Alex’s keynotes, can transform your culture through human-centric leadership.
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