To be a leader means to be willing to learn, empower, adapt, delegate, engage and reflect. More importantly, being a leader requires humanity before anything else. I spent some time reflecting on my Coaching and Trainings over the recent period and I was continually fascinated by the number of people who still relished the human connection. They appreciate the fact that they could be listened to, talked through situations and guided to succeed. In as much as sharing personal experiences to our teams seems energy draining, let us look back at our own traditions and family systems globally. When there is a personal experience of guidance and direction, the beneficiaries excel in whatever they do. As we seek to utilize the best resources to grow ourselves and our businesses, let us remember our life stories and choose to make personal impact in our own selves and for our teams. When we humanize our leadership, we humanize our people through connection and humanize our brand for the future. So how important is it to maintain your own humanity as a leader in the workplace.
Unfortunately, our current people leadership philosophies and practices lead to the promotion of individuals who are not always ready for handling such power and authority. Inevitably, those promoted up to management because of their impact as an individual contributor tends to take comfort in the known ways of working. They find power and authority through the boundaries, policies, procedures and protocols self-established. They focus on getting to the finish line every time and consider that reach and recognition to be a compliment. But, can we blame them? Leadership today is commonly defined as the state or the position of providing an opportunity for action. In its current (and economical) terms, leadership is one closely related to “doing.” We refer to those higher in organizational hierarchies and in roles of governing our communities as “leaders.” We elevate them instead of their roles and turn to them—the person not the role—to drive action. We feed them through our interactions, and we sacrifice ourselves and others to do what it takes to support them – not the organization as a whole. Then, when they don’t meet our standards or lose connection to reality, we question why (Forbes, 2018).
Interestingly, when we look at the etymology of leading, we see a slightly different meaning than the one we have adopted over the years, a definition better related to be a guide, an educator to a flow. In this definition, there is a strong focus on the link between self and the other. There is a service aspect. In other words, leadership in its original terms is less about “doing” something and more about “being” a certain way to drive a journey forward, to travel with—in service of a collective bigger goal (Forbes, 2018)
Leadership is all about people, and people are human. There cannot be successful leadership without humanity. There cannot be successful leadership without the ability to humanize one’s business and empathize with one’s people. The human connection is a valuable one and the brilliance of leadership is in its humanness. Although being human is a natural state of affair, there is a plenty more we can do. The point I am making is that, humanness is a skill that needs to be honed so we can be better leaders. Of course, with everything, we must begin with ourselves. To be able to give, you must have. How do you engage yourself? How open are you with yourself? How invested are you in your own development? You are your business and your brand. Making these investments to grow your humanness will directly impact your business. Your humanness will always reflect in the sort of people you hire, how you train them, the kind of products you sell, the quality of your service and the general investments you make to ensure the sustainability of your brand.
Army Field Manual on Leader Development insists repeatedly that empathy is essential for competent leadership. Why? Empathy enables you to know if the people you are trying to reach are actually reached. It allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and strategize accordingly. Without empathy, you cannot build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Empathy is essential in negotiations and sales: it allows you to know your target’s desires and what risks they are or aren’t willing to take. Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective and feelings. Also called “vicarious introspection,” it’s commonly described as the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. But make sure you are assessing how they would feel in their shoes, not how you would feel in their shoes (Forbes, 2017).
Elsewhere I have proposed a short list of 5 essential cognitive capacities and personality traits that every leader who assumes great responsibility must have. Empathy is one of the core five. (The others are self-awareness, trust, critical thinking and discipline/self-control.)
I am passionate about developing the sort of humanness that can direct us to identify and solve unique problems. Businesses in our modern climate are now more about human to human connections. It is not an interaction between clients and beautiful buildings or packages. It is a conversation between individuals who are passionate about similar things, conversations between people who want to grow, develop personal impact and be honest enough with their truth to get to the point of influence.
The big question is, as leaders, how do we become more human? How do we establish a genuine and authentic personal connection with those we lead? Can we be a vivid representation of the brand we are building such that others do not need to hear us speak to follow? Leadership in our world today needs to be simplified. As leaders, we must remember that we are not above the people we serve. To openly and honestly serve, we must be intentional and maintain relatedness to our people, our environment and our decisions. Here are 4 keys to help us start:
- PEOPLE BEFORE POLICIES
In every organization, there are rules made to offer direction and maintain order. The ultimate aim is to protect your people. But what do you do in the event when these policies are adversely affecting your people? Will you maintain your ways in the name of doing things according to the books? Well, you are a leader for the people. To be human is to be for your people, your brand and the people it is serving. How are your decisions affecting them? You are your brand. Your brand is your people. You cannot hurt one side of the equation without hurting the other. Consciously train yourself to listen, to feel, to be more present and to care enough to help out.
- BE TRANSPARENT
True leaders find ways to connect with others and what better way to do that than to be honest about who you are. Can you bare yourself by telling the truth about who you are? Can the people around you tell you the truth in front of you no matter how much it hurts? Your vulnerability can be a point of attack but it can also be a point of connection, one that will strengthen your brand and its relationships with others. Have nothing to hide, have nothing to lose and simply be YOU!
- CONSISTENCY IN GUIDANCE
Research by Gallup found that the second most-common mistake that leads to turnover is lack of communication. Marcel Schwantes, founder of leadership from the Core beautifully expatiates on this point. “High performing leaders responsibly give guidance, direction, and feedback on their employees’ work and performance on a consistent basis. This is crucial because people naturally want to know what they’re doing and what’s going on. It pays off in the long run too.”
Human leadership acknowledges the evolutionary baggage we carry around with us and continues to embrace growth as a key value despite. It accepts our bodily limitations and honors that we are not automatons. Instead, it celebrates the wirings we have built in for they allow us to bring soul and magic into our works. It values the journey as much as the result. As leaders, we have the capacity to change someone else’s reality every day. When we do, our act becomes contagious. We must initiate self-design to create environments where they can flourish first and ultimately share with others the benefits of that opportunity (Forbes, 2018)
It is possible to simplify leadership if we can understand ourselves and simplify how we go about things. We can humanize our brands and form not only stronger connections but have more lasting conversations. A mature, human leadership is not only possible—it is required for our workforce to handle the complexities of 21st-century lives. When awakened, our core inner human qualities can support us in developing a generous outward incarnation. The key is in our intention. You can start today.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.