Greatness begins with awareness.

How To Be a Great Leader: Lead with Humanity

Great leader showing support for employee on his growth path“You can buy their hands. You can train their heads. But until you have their hearts, you will never have their whole person.” – Warren Barry, Leadership Consultant

I often coach senior executives and managing partners who are trying to understand how to be great leaders. They are subject matter experts in their fields and their excellence has helped them rise to positions of leadership. But once they are there, they find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

They are now tasked with inspiring others to take steps they do not see ahead or are afraid to take, or helping them develop skills for what’s next. They are asked to understand, motivate, and grow a variety of people at a whole new level while navigating a social, cultural, and economic climate that keeps shifting.

This takes different skills than what got them to the organization’s top. To be great leaders, they must find their way to people’s hearts, not just their heads.

It’s what we now call “leading with humanity”.

It means acknowledging people, recognizing them for their efforts, and remembering that everyone is a person first and an employee second. This kind of leadership work requires authenticity, vulnerability, and showing real interest towards those who work for and with us.

It takes desire, presence, and intention to shift how we interact with others. We must slow down and make an effort to prioritize that part of the job. Often smart and driven executives have difficulty giving the people below them time and energy, let alone helping them shine. They are used to focusing on getting work done, meeting goals, and coming up with all the solutions.


So, how do you plant the seeds for great leadership through this humanity approach?

Lead with empathy.

This is the key ingredient to build trust and relationships with others. It means seeing direct reports and co-workers as humans, not objects whose sole purpose is to do the work. We must truly care about them as people. When we do, we are able to understand their behaviors, perspectives, and motivations – even when we are in disagreement.

Develop excellent listening skills.

People want to be heard and can tell if we are really listening to them or not. Humanizing leaders are present and interested in what others have to say; they don’t just wait for others to stop talking, so they can tell them what they want them to do next.

Practice straight talk and healthy conflict.

Great leaders do this all the time, with every person, no matter how difficult the topic might be. They understand the difference between being honest and upfront and being rude.

Spend time mentoring and developing others.

Inspirational leaders know a significant part of their work week should be spent supporting their team members to see what is possible for them and how they can move up in the role and the organization.

Our education, intellect, and success at doing the work may have opened the doors to finding ourselves in leadership positions. However, if we do not lead with our hearts and embrace these skills, we will not develop into the great leaders our teams, organizations (and the world) need.

Want to become a better leader and improve your ability to lead with humanity?

Reach out to discuss your unique path to leadership greatness.



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