Humanistic Leadership

Humanistic leadership blends in well with the expectations of todays employees. Now more than ever employees expect their work to serve a clear purpose, and they want to work where their personal values align with the corporation’s values. Rarely will employees look for an authoritative leader who manages people instead of leading them, they will look for leaders that care about them and offer the opportunity for personal development in pursuit of a purpose they believe in.

The rewards are high for leaders who get it right. The Harvard Business Review article HBR-Becoming a More Humane Leader defines the two key ingredients to being a human focused leader as: wisdom and compassion. HBR’s supporting study showed that job satisfaction is 86% higher for an employee who works for a wise and compassionate leader than an employee who does not.

Taking a broader view of humanistic leadership, here are two approaches to its definition.

The Humanistic Management Center identifies the three pillars of humanistic management as:

  1. Human Dignity
  2. Ethical Reflection
  3. Stakeholder Engagement

Building on this, the Michigan State University defines humanistic leaders as those who:

  1. Respect people as holistic human beings by taking care of himself/herself as well as the followers’ multiple needs and motives.
  2. Constantly improve themselves while developing the followers to unleash their full potential.
  3. Recognize and try to take into account all stakeholders’ interests while striving to pursue the common good.

Being a humanistic leader is hard work, but for leaders who want real human connection it is worth the effort. As HBR eloquently puts it: “To foster this type of leadership approach it is critical to acknowledge that we are not our job titles, we are human beings, wanting to connect on a human level with other people.” The article goes on to suggest the following four ways to be a more human leader:

  1. Remember the Golden Rule
  2. Listen intently
  3. Ask yourself, how can I be of benefit?
  4. Stretch people to see their potential.

No one leadership style can work in every situation, but being a humanistic leader as your core style can ensure you are in alignment with your employees and other key stakeholders.

HBR-Becoming a More Humane Leader