Guest Editor - Sujatha Das

An ever-changing ecosystem is challenging everyone to step out of their comfort zones and learn to navigate through disruption. As organizations are trying to move from remote to hybrid modes of working, we are hearing more about “burnout” and “quiet quitting.” Addressing these issues is very critical — and following a path of human-centered leadership may foster creativity, resilience and success for employees and organizations.

Human-centered Leadership Must Be Practiced by Everyone

Leadership is not a position, it is a transformational journey — and with this premise, every individual should strive to become a human-centered leader. No one can achieve excellence, positive impacts or outcomes all by themselves. Even if a person plays an individual contributor role, a lot of collaboration is required from various groups to achieve common goals. Hence, every person should reflect on the concept of “leading the self.”

The beauty of life is that we are each unique and bestowed with some strengths. Yet, we have our limitations too. Developing self-awareness, emotional intelligence and the ability to regulate our emotions can enable us to appreciate the strengths and limitations of ourselves and others. Self-awareness is a look into our inner self which enables us to understand our own perceptions about various aspects – be it emotions, traits or behaviors. Emotional intelligence is about our ability to understand, use and regulate or handle our emotions in a positive manner. We are then able to listen actively and respond mindfully to others.

When we wear the hat of a people leader, we are focusing on “leading others.” With team members working remotely, it is critical for every leader to make sure they develop a strong rapport with their team members and understand their needs, strengths, perspectives, growth aspirations and challenges. This will enable leaders to empathize with and coach team members toward personal and professional growth. It is this engagement and encouragement that motivates the team to become a high-performing team.

When the balance between leading self and leading others is achieved, it culminates in organizational excellence, wherein human-centered leaders demonstrate the ability to understand the organization’s vision and accept and adapt to necessary changes. In this mode, together everyone can complement their strengths to achieve excellence.

Three questions we can reflect on to help us practice the path of human-centered leadership are:

  • Are we able to connect to the purpose and the meaningful outcomes we want to achieve?
  • Are we able to appreciate the unique gifts of all the people with whom we work to collaborate?
  • Are we ready to learn, unlearn and relearn to be able to tap the unlimited potential and collective wisdom?

To thrive in this disruptive world, it is important to break down silos, increase agility, improve innovation and drive toward long-term value. All these are possible only if leaders today understand the people with whom they work, while appreciating and leveraging their team’s diversity.

Leadership modeled on empathy will enable organizations to create an atmosphere of collaboration, strong bonding, kindness and compassion for the people with whom we interact and work. Collaborative ecosystems built on the foundation of trust enable more productivity and excellence. They also enable us to appreciate and recognize contributions from individual contributors, which in turn increases the happiness quotient (and thus the bottom line) for the organization.