Whether that of a country, company, team or community, we look to leaders to exemplify and model behaviors we generally find valuable—empathy, compassion, accountability, responsibility, diplomacy, intelligence; the ability to acknowledge and understand differences and work through them; and the capability to unwaveringly guide us in times of turmoil, crisis, and uncertainty.
Defining a leader
We tend to hold leaders to a higher standard than we do our peers, colleagues, neighbors, and friends with a few exceptions. Every human—leader or not—deserves respect and should give it in return. Every human—leader or not—should be genuine and have integrity. Every human—leader or not—should be inclusive and appreciative of the diversity within each other.
“Talking the talk is not enough,” said personal coach Sandy Chernoff during a recent Conversations for Humanity event. “Leaders have to model the behaviors they want—tell the truth, be accountable, be responsible—humans are very imperfect creatures.”
According to merriam-webster.com, a leader is “a person who leads, such as a person who has commanding authority or influence.”
“Before anyone can really become a leader, we need to re-define and re-market what a leader is and lead by example,” said Kim Schultz, podcast host at KIMology 411 during a recent Conversations of Humanity discussion.
The list goes on…
“Being a leader is not an easy task,” Chernoff said. “They are human too. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, but we have to own them. It’s up to the leader to see potential in people.”
- Be respectful and acknowledge people
- Be experienced and accomplished
- Be authentic and transparent
- Be inclusive and appreciate diversity in thought, experiences and skillset
- Bring humanity and understanding to conversations
- Bring people on a journey
Dimensional leadership, people
“How do we get people up through the ranks so they are valued for the same characteristics we want to see in leaders,” asked executive coach Katherine Porter, who recently attended a Conversations for Humanity event.
Do you feel leaders and managers see you three-dimensionally—someone who ticks the workplace qualifications and encompasses unique thoughts, experiences, skillsets, and ideas? Or do you feel flat and mostly overlooked, a two-dimensional sheet of paper with eight to 10 boxes in which to place a checkmark?
“It will be the people who rise up, the people who listen,” said Nicola Waters, managing director at APEX HR Ltd., during the Conversations for Humanity event. “Leaders have got to listen before anything else happens, and then they have to be courageous.”
If employers check the box on your two-dimensional personnel file, then you move through the cattle line in the recruiting process or even as a new hire. Otherwise, you, as the paper representative, are tossed into the recycling bin (hopefully). But people have more to offer, often providing more value outside the box. What about the diversity of thought, experience, language, culture, background, and geography you bring? If already a member of the workforce, what about the financial, training, time, and resources leaders and managers have invested in you? What about employee coaching opportunities and company ROI you’ve helped develop?
“Trust is such a big thing. We have to model trust and extend trust to earn trust,” said Kevin Miller, chief humanity officer at APEX HR Ltd. “Are we equipping the leaders of tomorrow to lead in an effective way? The type of work we do is around behavior and change is never easy. You can manipulate people, or you can inspire people around a bigger purpose, around a vision.”
People are not perfect, why does the workforce expect them to be?
“Change is uncomfortable and it’s hard,” said Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant Tasneem Chopra (left), who recently spoke to members of the International Association of Business Communicators. “People’s biggest resistance to change is losing a sense of power. The greater good is going to pave the way for greater change. Understanding the more people you help, the better it’s going to be for everyone.”
Research shows we only use about 10% of our brain. Can you imagine if companies and leaders leveraged 100% of a person coming into and staying in the workforce? Right now, we’re missing so much. Leaders are generally not even looking outside the boundaries or the possibilities that a person could bring to the table because they are so focused on ticking the boxes. The current process is a yes or no, black or white when it is not a black or white environment.
“Diversity goes to the core of people’s humanity. They know they can bring themselves to work and be productive, valued members of the workplace,” Chopra said. “Diversity is about more than optics. It’s about doing the right thing.”
We all have a role to play
“We all have to play a role in being that leader and those we want to develop in the future,” said health motivator Carla Fedigan during the Conversations for Humanity discussion. “Take it from a management perspective and we can all be a leader in our own unique way. If you are a leader, anyone should be able to step up.”