There are eight qualities of human leaders that separate ordinary leaders from extraordinary ones. There are countless books, podcasts, videos, and articles on the subject of leadership. The key component to any leadership style is the human element. The human element may be the easiest to look over, but the most important overall.
When I think about those individuals that taught me true, genuine leadership, I first think about the quality human beings they are. I was fortunate in the infancy of my career to be surrounded by friends, who just happened to be leaders. They were small business owners, pastors, elected officials, coaches, and educators.
These special people shared their wisdom and experiences with me at breakfast, lunch, kitchen, and conference room tables. They all saw more in me than I saw in myself, they chose to invest in me.
In my experience with these people who Interceded my journey, each share these eight qualities of human leaders:
Authentic and Genuine
Leaders who are good humans are authentic and genuine. Have you ever been around those people that just radiate these qualities? There are no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives, they are just uniquely them. As leaders, we must be authentically and genuinely us. We are wired differently from everyone else and there is extreme value to that. People you lead do not need you to be something you are not, just you.
Great leaders inspire others. President John Quincy Adams wisely said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Many people confuse inspiration as needing to run up and down the hallways doing toe touches to inspire others. Maybe that works for some, but showing a general interest in someone else’s future and well-being can inspire them, “do more, become more.” Just a little investment in someone can light a fire.
Presence is one of the most underrated qualities of a leader. I know you are probably thinking that anyone can be present if they choose. You are right, but the choice to be present is the first step. The second step is timing. Human leaders show up when everyone else is walking out, when someone’s world is falling apart. I compare it to a visitation when someone has passed away. Many times it is not your words for the family, it is simply your choice to be present and the timing of it that matters most. The people we lead need our chosen, timely presence.
Love and Care
We conduct Upward Feedback on myself and our leadership team. I’ll spend a few minutes with the people they lead during evaluation season. They questions are relatively simple.
- What do you feel they do well as a leader?
- What do you feel they could improve upon as a leader?
- Do you feel that they love and care for you.
Technically, per job descriptions, questions one and two should be the most valuable feedback. For me, question three means everything. If one of our leaders were to receive consistent negative feedback in that area, it would cause me great concern. Loving and caring for people creates a connection greater than for supersedes the words of a job description or employment agreement. I once heard there was science behind the theory that the human heart can be felt up to five feet away. In leadership, the human heart can be felt offices away.
I have always said there is a significant difference in sympathy and empathy. See, the thing about sympathy is it requires you to actually of had experienced what someone else is walking through. That can be easier than expressing empathy. Empathy is trying to get as close to understanding someone’s experiences without actually walking in their shoes. It requires extra-mile effort. That effort is felt to the core of those walking through a difficult or challenging season. Empathy could quite be our best way to make a human connection with those we lead.
Had a friend tell me once that, “Gratitude is never silent.” This was one of the best pieces of advice that I ever received. When you think about it, we are grateful for our family, friends, and those we lead, but do we ever speak it. Spoken could also be written, a handwritten note of gratitude goes a long way. Whatever the form of communication, any form of gratitude can create a more significant human connection in leadership. Great leaders are grateful people.
Too often, humans feel the need to condemn and criticize others. Bad humans stand on the pile of someone else’s carnage of mistakes, missteps, and misfortunes to elevate themselves. Good humans serve as a foundation to stand on for these people to rebound, recover, and be redeemed.
Every setback sets up a comeback. Grace is an unwarranted and undeserved gift a leader can give to others. So…why should we give grace when we can? Because at some point, we will need the favor returned. We all fall short.
Here is a lost art as humans, intentionality. We can haphazardly make someone’s day occasionally, stumbling across the right opportunity to do so. Those moments are important, but when intentionality is applied, they become Unexpected Moments, Unforgettable Experiences. People cannot touch intentional, but they can feel it. People know when you have put a plan and thoughtfulness behind something. Always be intentional, with every little act. Leaders do not arrive at greatness by chance, they intentionally arrive at the destination.
The pandemic and labor shortages have accelerated the need for human leadership, a deficit of this skillset is greatly impacting our world. A gaping gap of leadership that only quality humans can fill. People need people who create a solid human connection.
The recipe for human leadership is simple…be authentic and genuine, inspire, be present, love and care for others, be empathetic, express gratitude, and do it all intentionally. You can be the binding ingredient to bring it all together.
Let’s end on a simple reflection. Are you exemplifying these eight qualities of human leaders? If not, ask yourself why?