Why Are Leaders So Scared Of Humanness In The Workplace?

More than 10 years ago, Bob Chapman CEO of Barry Wehmiller a US-based global manufacturing and services business founded Truly Human Leadership  with the intent of starting a revolution to make humanness central to organisational life. This makes my heart sing and at the same time, I find it a sad commentary on the state of leadership in our organisations that we need to create a movement to remember that we are human.

And yet there it is, we have spent centuries now trying to extract the full value of the industrial revolution, in pursuit of mechanistic and operational control and efficiency. Even in so-called service businesses where the thing we are really ‘selling’ is attained as an outcome of powerful and yet ‘natural’ human interaction.

Terms such as ‘human capital’ and ‘human resources’ consciously, and subconsciously, reduce ‘people’ in the business into the ‘asset’ category in a ‘bean counter’ way not in a human way.

This has led to a deeply ingrained level of resistance in many leaders to explore what it means to lead from a place of humanness. Resistance that I believe is formed from decades spent pursuing the primary goal of profit and financial well-being and adopting an ‘accounting’ mindset when it comes to the running the business. Terms such as ‘human capital’ and ‘human resources’ consciously, and subconsciously, reduce ‘people’ in the business into the ‘asset’ category in a ‘bean counter’ way not in a human way. Any initiatives aimed at improving employee well-being are all done with the focus on productivity and ‘payback’ from a bottom line perspective not because it’s just the right thing to do.

Now we have made some breakouts from this, and to be fair there is some small progress in bringing in more people-centred cultures. And yet, it is pushing against a huge wall of resistance from some of the most senior leaders in business. Leaders who seem unable to pull themselves out from under the relentless pressure to meet the numbers. Leaders who, in some cases, have no frame of reference for what it means to be human in a work context and seem to see it as something that will distract the business from its core work. The pursuit of efficiency, profit, and control of ‘resources’ has become so deeply ingrained in the DNA that anything else looks and feels scary to many leaders.

But how scary is it really? We all have places in our lives (hopefully) where we relate to others from our hearts and from our humanness. Places where we derive warmth, care, and consideration all of which fill us with a greater sense of value and inner power. So I suspect that it’s not that we don’t know how, it’s that we can’t reconcile the seemingly messy and less linear world of ‘being human’ with the need for order, control and efficiency encoded in our definition of ‘good business’. And yet the old ways aren’t working for us anymore – we have gone beyond the limits of their value – so isn’t it time for the Human Revolution where we really connect with the full power of who we are as people?

Lorraine Flower
Lorraine Flowerhttp://azzur.co.uk/
As a Corporate change agent, consultant, coach and mentor Lorraine founded azzur and is completely transparent about the spiritual principles on which it operates. Alongside her 18 years as azzur’s founder, Lorraine brings 20 years' service industry experience to bear through her senior leadership roles at British Airways (BA) and Great North Eastern Railway (GNER). It is Lorraine's belief in individual and organisational power for good that gives azzur its raison d'etre. azzur and Lorraine specifically has worked with clients across the business spectrum from financial services, to retail and transport to healthcare an in both the public and private sectors. azzur is focused on developing contemporary, spirited leadership capability, and organisations built on inspiring purpose, empowering cultures and a powerful vision and values. She is championing new models of leadership and organisational development founded on the principles of conscious leadership and writes extensively on these topics.She is a member of a number of global spiritual groups and communities serving the greater good of Humanity and the planet. She works and studies extensively in developing and exploring conscious leadership believing that business leaders are key players in transforming the well-being of the planet and humanity as a whole.
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Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.

Lorraine, excellent article! When we consider that the top skill for leaders is communication, and the top skill for managers is interpersonal skills, these are skills that speak to the heart of your message.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I have the same point of view and philosophy as you expressed in your article, Lorraine. I ran my businesses completely from the people-centered aspect, and I believe that is the biggest single reason for our success. Also like you, I don’t like the term “human resources.” I refuse to use it; in my companies that department is called the Establishment Division, because it is people and people development that establishes the foundation for any company.

John Dunia

Very well stated, Lorraine. I am not against the idea of making money but when it comes at the expense of humans – whether it is abusing your employees OR exploiting your customers – that is a sad state of mind.
I think too many people also, knowingly or unknowingly, admire this behavior because the thought of having lots of money or power, is a huge motivation.

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