How having empathy, humility, and vulnerability help you be a human-centered leader

by | Sep 24, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

Bye-bye b2b. Hello h2h.

After years of working in the B2B space – that is, business to business, I’ve decided my business practices have become h2h; that is, human to human.

Why? My emphasis is on:

  • Building personal relationships with my clients and others, rather than completing transactions.
  • Providing customized services with an emphasis on being clear, compassionate, and committed.
  • Being authentic, transparent, and respectful in my interactions.

As I work with clients and everyone else, I strive to adhere to the concepts of human-centered leadership. This leadership style puts people first. You can practice it even when you’re outside of a formal leadership position.

To be human-centered, you need to step away from controlling and protecting information, relations, and processes and move toward connecting and creating with others. This also means adjusting your priorities from focusing on traditional productivity metrics to considering the impact on individuals.

When you’re centered on humans, you’ve got to shift your perspective and look at everything from their individual point of view. For example, what do they need? How do they learn? To what extent are they willing to take action? And what will it take for them to choose action over inertia?

You also need to communicate in a considerate and timely manner. This includes being clear, candid, and culturally sensitive when explaining, course correcting as needed, and making calls to action. In other words, you need to communicate at all times in a customer-centric way with each individual, rather than in a manner to the masses that’s most comfortable for you.

According to Josh Bersin’s latest research and the tenets of his online course Human-Centered Leadership, which I recommend, the three key human-centered leadership elements are:

  1. Empathy: When you’re a human-centered leader, you listen to others’ perspectives and have empathy for their situation. You show respect, strive to be inclusive, and express care and compassion. And importantly, you take actions that help employees improve how they experience you, their work, and the organization and its culture. You also make sure that your own biases and privileges don’t get in the way.
  1. Humility: You also value humility in yourself and others. This starts with having a growth mindset, focusing more on being curious, asking questions, and learning rather than wanting to look smart or be right. You encourage open-mindedness and collaboration over competition and winning at any cost. You value progress over perfection, which includes being focused on helping others grow and develop and feel like they belong.
  1. Vulnerability: You also provide psychological safety so everyone you work with feels like they can be seen, heard, and connected and be as authentic as possible. As a leader, you also model vulnerability, admitting when you don’t know all the answers, including when you’re wrong. You also ask others for feedback and reflect on what you’ve heard. You’re willing to give up control and trust others. This means recognizing that improved productivity and higher profits will be a positive byproduct of treating people well.

When you work this way, you’re actually being just as or more strategic than when you’re focused on traditional metrics. That’s because you give up trying to maintain power over others and start sharing power with them, which can benefit everyone and the situation.

This shift in power can help energize yourself and others. You’re no longer doing all the heavy lifting; you have others to help you. As long as others feel respected and trusted, they’ll be committed to contribute their mental, physical, and spiritual energy to their work and the organization. This spiritual energy comes from having a stronger sense of purpose, which individuals can gain once they believe that their leaders and colleagues see and hear them and value their connections with them.

Moving to human-centered leadership and an h2h model may mean that you’ll need to unlearn and relearn ways of being and doing. To be effective, you’ll need to view leadership as an inside game. You’ve got to have high self-awareness, a growth mindset, and strong values. You’ve also got to be curious, courageous, and committed to practicing empathy, humility, and vulnerability.

Are you ready to embrace your humanity with more empathy, humility, and vulnerability?


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