Human-centered leadership in practice: what does it look like?

March 2nd, 2022

It’s easy to say we’re striving toward a more human-centered leadership style. But along the way, it’s important to understand the specifics of what this culture will look like, so we can assess and support our organization's progress.

Let's explore a few signs of human-centered leadership—that is, leadership putting people on par with profitability—in action.

Signs of human-centered leadership in practice

Jill Sochor, global leadership and professional development manager at Ford, offers a few tips for identifying human-centeredness at work. She mentions wellbeing as a strategic priority, transparency in communication, and a culture of learning—especially colleagues learning together—as key signs that a culture is becoming more human-centered.

Jill also says that human-centeredness will affect the way we speak about our work. It may be as simple as hearing the word "yet" a bit more: when team members are able to say "I will be able to do this, but I can't yet," we've created a culture where people feel empowered to be open about the ways in which they are still growing, Jill explains.

Building a more human-centered culture through trust

For a true human-centered culture, we first need a foundation of trust. Do employees trust each other, their managers, their leadership, and the organization at large? A culture of trust is important at any time, but especially when we're faced with crisis—a common theme the past few years as companies around the world have seen elevated levels and uncertainty and massive upheaval in the way they work, including shifts to remote and hybrid work that have put significant pressure on managers in particular.

Trust has two components, according to research by Accenture: compassion and confidence.

First, compassion. A few key signs: do people feel that the organization cares about them and their wellbeing? Do they feel taken care of? Do they expect their personal concerns to be heard and considered? Second, confidence: do people have faith in the organization? Do they believe that good decisions are being made, even in uncertain times?

In a crisis, it's tempting to swing hard in one direction, prioritizing either compassion or productivity at any cost. But neither is sustainable alone. Finding a balance between these two components is key to creating an environment of trust that can meaningfully support employees through difficult times.

More about human-centered leadership

To learn more about how to instill a human-centered leadership culture at your organization, and how to recognize and measure your progress in human-centered leadership, check out our newest HR Certificate Program. Human-Centered Leadership, built from in-depth qualitative research conducted by our partners at the Josh Bersin Company, digs into the emergence of human-centered leadership and explores why it will have a significant impact on the way organizations lead and manage for years to come.