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We sit down at zoom calls and see kitchen tables set up as home offices, toddlers waving to teammates, and cats unapologetically strutting in front of monitors.

Today’s virtual work environment is exposing our realness as humans first, leaders second.

We love seeing our leaders as humans.

This intimate, inside look at the person behind the leadership title, coupled with a leader’s ability to skillfully respond with foundational emotional intelligence skills (self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy) propels employees to follow and work harder than ever.


What does it mean to lead from a place of humanness?

In a client workshop this week, I witnessed three striking examples:


  1. A manager shared what they appreciate most about the new working environment is seeing their peers and team leaders as “humans with flaws”.
  2. Another shared although they initially felt pressure to show up as a perfect leader for fear that others would see their imperfections, they’re learning the imperfection is what allows them to be an effective leader.
  3. A senior leader confessed that they were sitting on the carpet in the guest room because they lost the family’s ‘negotiation’ of who got the room with a desk.


I hope this proud display of humanity is our next direction in leadership.

Our global response to the pandemic has opened a window on the imperfection of our lives. Leaders are realizing that bringing their humanness to work expands their ability to build trust, team collaboration, and lead with influence.

Bravo to the leaders who are putting human relationships and their realness at the front of how they lead: tossing out perfection and courageously sharing their attempts to balance today’s ever-changing demands.

I celebrate the leaders who are pulling away from years of organizational pressure to show up as “a suit” and choosing to lead with empathy, compassion, and support. It is possible to achieve goals and set teams up for success through purposeful, human leadership.


Remembering the human element

We all face many months of continued change and challenge.

Although leaders will face weighty decisions tied to contingency plans, growth strategies, and getting things right, we know continuing to infuse your leadership with the human element will allow your organization to thrive. Start by asking yourself:


  • What does it look like to lead with a human focus? (humans first, employees second)
  • What values drive decision making for your company?
  • How can you regularly connect with your team as human beings?


People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou


At Riverbend, we help leaders answer these questions with confidence. Together, we design human leadership strategies that allow leaders to address change and challenge with greater confidence. We inspire and equip leaders to become force multipliers in their organizations.


Author Jen O'Hare

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