Lead the (Human) Way


I have spoken a lot about what it means to be a human, and so have you. I have been listening to you all over the last couple of years and have heard the phrases:

  • ‘Ok, human moment coming right up’
  • ‘I’m only human’
  • ‘We’re human’
  • ‘I’m not a robot’
  • ‘Emotions are fine, you’re human’

Hearing these genuinely makes my heart go funny. We are accepting our humanness, acknowledging it, communicating it, with no apologies. I love it.

BUT. Of course, there’s a but.

Alongside these phrases I’ve also seen how burnt out you (we) are, how hybrid working has left us feeling a little despondent, lonely, missing something. How our days feel transactional. How we struggle to switch off. I’ve witnessed how our concerns and anxieties have increased in relation to the cost-of-living crisis, wars and conflict, political situations, and the climate crisis.

We know we’re human. We know we make mistakes. We know we’re not limitless, untouchable, or some person flying around in tights with their pants over the top claiming to save the world.

What I have seen more than ever is our show of vulnerability and our need for people and connection. But what I have seen missing more than ever is self-awareness, consciousness, altruism, and utilitarianism. We, the macro we, have a long way to go.

Who we are as people defines who we are as leaders.

Who we are as leaders can define who our people are at work.

Who our people are at work defines the success of the organisation.

The success of the organisation affects the workforce, the customers, and wider society.

No pressure, but leadership is not something we can afford to keep getting wrong. 

The world is a hard place right now.

But it’s full of amazing people.

Doing amazing things.

Being kind.

Smiling at strangers.

Donating their time and money.

Being conscious of their impact on their community.

Being conscious of their impact on the planet.

Watching the world implode and wondering what they can do.

Simply being, being amazing.

The workplace is also a hard place.

There are some amazing people.

Doing amazing things.

Being kind.

Smiling at colleagues.

Working extra hours to meet the demands of the under resourced roles.

Trying to balance work and home.

Being conscious of their impact on their community.

Being conscious of their impact on the planet.

Trying to help those around them.

Being a ray of sunshine.

Simply being, being amazing.

And then there’s the rest.

The people who are not being so amazing.

Not doing amazing things.

Not being kind.

Not even cracking a smile.

Expecting everybody to work extra hours.

Not caring whether the polar bears will go extinct or not.

Not caring about the size of the queue at the foodbank down the road.

Simply being, well, being a bit of a d*ck.  

…And who we are, who we’re showing up as, who we are being, can be situational, affected by mental health, emotions, energy levels, the amount of sleep we’ve had, whether we skipped breakfast, the people in the room….

Leadership isn’t about what you take on. It’s also about what you give up and the sacrifices you make. Leaders you have a lot to figure out here. You have a lot of puzzles to solve.

  • What people do you have around you? What type of people do you want on your team?
  • When you have the right team, how do you help those people progress, even when it’s not within your team or even organisation?
  • How do you lead? Are you being conscious of your impact on the people you lead? Are you enabling them or hindering them?
  • How do you lead because of WHO you are rather than the power and control that comes with your role?
  • How do you prioritise? What do you say no to? Where are your red lines?
  • How do you shine the spotlight away from you, and onto the awesome people around you?
  • How do you make yourself vulnerable? Do you highlight what you don’t know?
  • How do you actually give enough time to those who you lead?
  • What comes first? The business needs or your people? (Hint, this may be a trick question)
  • How do you protect your team from the battles you fight when nobody else is watching?
  • How do you ensure your people are productive?
  • How do you ensure your people are effective?
  • How do you ensure your people are well?
  • How do you ensure your people feel listened to?
  • How do you ensure your people feel appreciated?
  • Do your operations pass the ‘hit by a bus’, test?


How do you “be human” with this pressure coming down on you? Here’s the top 5 things which stand out for me:

  • Acknowledge your humanness – i.e. be vulnerable, hold your hands up and say you don’t know everything. There’s a fine line between being confident and having an ego.
  • Build a culture of positive intent. Your people will embrace your humaness if they know 95% of the time you get it right and 5% of the time you get it wrong, and when that 5% happens, you hold your hands up, ask for feedback, take time to reflect and have intentions to be better. The ratios don’t work the other way round. What does work the other way though is the fact that the same thoughts need to be in your mind about the people you lead; hold your people in positive regard, and work with them to be better.
  • The hardest conversations shouldn’t be avoided. Upwards: be the voice of your people, have their backs, fight for them, be accountable and avoid blaming. Downwards: Listen, mentor, communicate openly, provide feedback, and carve out sufficient time to have hard conversations in the best way possible, hard conversations cannot be rushed.
  • Fairness. “That’s not fair,” said the child. “Life isn’t fair”, says the adult. I’m call bullshit on this phrase. Don’t invalidate the person’s feelings. Fairness is one of the top four violations that people feel when in crisis (along with trust, safety, and power/control). The violation of fairness occurs when expectations go unmet AND when something bad/unwanted happens as a result. It is our decisions and judgements of the situation that makes it feel fair or unfair. As a leader, it’s your job to communicate effectively so your people can determine the decisions/judgements taken were in fact fair.
  • Integrity. A strong moral compass = consistency and uncompromisable i.e…increased predictable behaviors. Your people will appreciate this endlessly. People like reliability, dependability, consistency…. It makes us feel safe.

I hope this has helped, or at least made you think and reflect on your own behaviors and those of the people around you. Lead the human way.

Have a lovely weekend and be a good human,



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