PUBLIC SERVICE NEWS ONLINE: Building human-centred leadership capability

Anthony Howard says the best leaders put people first to create an environment in which their employees can flourish

By Anthony Howard*

Human-centred leadership is a new model of leadership for the 21st century. However it is based on human-centred practices more than twenty centuries old.

These practices focus on living a good life — the best possible life — and being the best person you can be.

As such they provide insights about leadership that apply to the most challenging situations of the 21st century.

The ancient Greeks believed that a ‘good life’ was a life of human flourishing, and that the key to that was the practice of good habits, or doing the right thing in order to become the best person you can.

Why does this matter for leadership?

Because leadership is fundamentally about a relationship with other people — it is human-centred — and helping those people become all they can be.

This suggests three key insights that can help you become a human-centred leader.

1: Put people first

If you think about the great leaders you know, you will almost certainly notice the way they treat you and others.

Become the best person

They put people before profits, and understand that people come to work, that people execute strategy, that people buy their products or services.

The great leaders put people first. They see beyond an individual doing a job to a person with talents and skills, hopes and dreams, and a contribution to make to the firm.

Ask not what your colleague can do for you … ask who they are.

2: Do the right thing

Because leadership involves both people and decision making, it has a moral dimension.

We too often think only of the technical dimension of leadership, and focus on developing strategic insight, or commercial acumen, or industry experience … all important and necessary.

However leadership involves choosing wisely and well.

Human-centred leaders choose what is proper over what is merely permissible.

Key to success

They recognise that their decisions impact the lives of colleagues and clients, communities and countries.

They recognise the moral dimension of leadership and so strive to know and do what is right.

3: Create an environment in which people can flourish

Human-centred leaders recognise that work is not just a place for a group of people to gather to make money for shareholders, but that it is a ‘community’ of human beings growing and developing together.

They actively support their staff through training and development and create opportunities for learning and for social contribution.

They minimise practices that interfere with leading a balanced life.

Since human-centred leaders recognise the human dimension of business they do what they can to foster rather than diminish that.

In the accelerating pace of 21st century business it is sometimes hard to see people instead of profits, or relationships instead of results.

But the key to success and greater significance is being a human-centred leader who puts people first and is morally sound — not in order to make more money, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Anthony Howard is an executive mentor, founder of The Confidere Group and author.

This article first appeared in the Public Service News Online 26 August 2016