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Why Do Leaders Need To Be Humans First?

Picture of Marut Bhardwaj

Marut Bhardwaj

Marut Bhardwaj is the Country Head of Potential Project, India- a global leadership consulting & professional services firm. She is a leadership development speaker and facilitator transforming the competitive corporate chaos into a more humane world of work, so that the organizations and its employees can all thrive together.
Leaders Need to Be Humans First-amazing-workplaces


Throughout history, during different waves of civilization we’ve used our unique human abilities to enhance our environment and circumstances. We’ve developed new medications that have saved lives, and pioneered new technologies that have transformed even the way we live. But our capacity to work together as a species has been the key to all of our achievements irrespective of the difficulties faced. We have always been able to do more when we have worked together as a team.

That’s because as humans, we need a sense of belonging and social connection. As the pandemic continues to morph and evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what the next chapter in our lives will look like and how we will progress.


Businesses Need Human Leaders

Obviously, the world is in the midst of a major shift.

Businesses have had to become more agile and responsive in order to keep up with this rapid pace of technological and social development.

From the inflexible command and control systems of the unidirectional industrial age businesses have had to accommodate to more nimble and dynamic arrangements. Combine this with the growing awareness around corporate social responsibility and a shareholder-first perspective has become an indisputably dangerous, besides antiquated, road to traverse. Meanwhile, the pandemic-induced transition towards remote work has given rise to a hybrid workplace where interactions are diffuse and performance outcomes digitally facilitated.

Today, all the stakeholders of the company need to work through a collaborative, increasingly flat approach. Working with this approach, the quality of the connections between these stakeholders, specifically between leaders and employees, is what defines the capability to deliver desired outcomes.


Who Are Human Leaders?

Having a growing disconnect from our fellow human beings can be extremely detrimental to both ourselves and our organizations going forward. Studies have shown that it can cause physical discomfort and mental health difficulties, not to mention a decrease in productivity and creativity at work.

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Leaders play a critical role in our workplaces and society. As people in positions of power and authority, they have the capacity to impact our daily lives. The onus of establishing connection too, therefore, lies on them. Hence, human leaders are the need of the hour.


What defines human leaders?

Human leaders are those leaders who, by their very nature, bring their whole selves to the work. They apply the human values of wisdom, empathy, and compassion to the job while preserving respect and recognizing where the ball stops.

Emotional intelligence makes a crucial difference in the conduct of human leaders. If a leader is emotionally tone-deaf, even if he or she is extremely intelligent or has years of expertise, he or she might still fail. Emotionally intelligent leaders, on the other hand, are able to recognize their own emotions as well as those of others. For them, it’s not just about listening to what people have to say, but also deciphering their state of mind through nonverbal social cues – like gestures, facial expressions, responses, and overall conduct in the workplace.

In essence, human leaders lead the way to connection before profit.


Building Meaningful, Mindful Human Connections

Human leaders inspire people to self-determination. They empower them to unleash their potential for creativity, productivity, and fulfillment.

So, to start with, leaders must recognize that they are more than their job titles, and that their job isn’t to exert authority or be the most intelligent person in the room. Instead, their goal should be to cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for differing perspectives while raising the bar for employees’ potential.

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First, by acknowledging that they are more than their job titles, and second, by employing the four given tips to their everyday interactions, leaders can foster deep human connections at the workplace:


Listen to your workers

Our ability to connect to others is directly related to how well we listen.

In the workplace, employees want to be heard and to be treated with dignity and respect. Listening conveys respect and fosters trust. This results in a more enthusiastic and devoted team. As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage others to be open and honest without fear of backlash.

Listening is also powerful tool for self-discovery and progress. It is important to be receptive to new ideas and perspectives from employees. If you don’t pay attention, you won’t be able to learn. Listening to your staff is a great way to challenge your reality and find novel points of growth.

Practice compassion

Compassion is the desire and willingness to treat others with respect and consideration. It’s the antithesis of indifference. It allows leaders to see others as a part of themselves and relate to what they’re going through when making responses or taking crucial decisions.

However, compassion does not mean being a pushover. It’s the idea of giving people what they need rather than simply what they want. In no way is practicing compassion and allowing bad behavior to continue the same thing.

With compassion you can look at the big picture and do what’s best for everyone, allowing your employees to expand their knowledge, grow, and become more aligned with the organization’s goals.

Recognize and raise employee potential

Many leaders I have talked to struggle with the tension between the need to fit in and the need to be themselves. For individuals who can trust their most true selves, the path to their own and others’ progress becomes easier, and that fosters deep connection.

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We all come from diverse origins and have distinct experiences and values that we bring to the table when we work together. Human leaders are able to recognize and appreciate each person’s unique contributions and utilize them to their fullest potential. Making the connection between the possibilities of their employees and the goals of their organizations helps them lead from the forefront at two ends.

Because human leaders are more self-aware and learn to change their methods as necessary, they ensure that they are constantly playing to the strengths they have as well as the strengths that their employees have.

Extend a hand of help

Acts of kindness trigger the pleasure center of our brain, that helps govern social connections and emotions. Behaving kindly benefits leaders’ emotional well-being as much as that of their workers. A fact which has a direct correlation to morale and productivity. Everybody wants to be around individuals who care about their well-being.

There are many ways to give back in the workplace, from mentorships to everyday interactions, motivations, or just simple assistance with work tasks. As long as your actions are arising from a place of mindfulness and concern, helping people will enable you to build a more human contact that is focused on the growth and development of the individuals you are leading.


With the courage, openness and desire to experiment with new ways of being and doing things, it’s possible to embrace a new, more human leadership style that will inspire long-term emotional engagement and performance from employees despite the many uncertainties and struggles that may come in the way of organizations in the coming years.


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