Teaching Business Leaders to Be More Human


We will all remember 2020 for the rest of our lives for many things including quarantines, teaching-leadershome food deliveries, social distancing, political unrest, and new ways of working.

When thinking about new ways of working, one of the recent trends that I have observed is an entirely different approach to leadership development. Because of the disruption of COVID-19, everything about the way we work and lead has been disrupted. As a result, the way we are developing leaders has also change… and we are just starting to recognize some of the interesting differences and impacts.

As we continue to work with business and talent leaders around the globe on finding new ways of developing leaders in 2020 and beyond, a statement one of our dearest clients recently shared resonates well and summarizes one of the most significant changes that is going to impact us all, “The most important thing that we are working on is teaching our leaders to be more human.”

What an interesting, thoughtful, and profound approach to leadership development during uncertain and volatile times.

I had a great dialogue with this leader around what his perspective means and what the implications are for leadership development. Here are three important takeaways on being more human in leadership that I’d like to share:

Give Purposeful Feedback

Purposeful feedback is providing direct reports, peers, and managers positive and constructive feedback that has meaning and purpose in terms of supporting the business strategies and goals of the business. It is more important than ever to deliver in-the-moment feedback and not hold back or avoid it. The bottom line is there should be no surprises in feedback and performance development. It’s something that must be done every day even if it’s hard and you want to avoid it.

Having hard conversations

These are tough times and they are hard times. And they won’t be getting easier any time soon. Many times, feedback needs to address some difficult challenges or the ability to take advantage of new opportunities. One of the most significant issues around feedback is that most people avoid it. They are uncomfortable having hard conversations. That simply can not happen in this new world of business. Leaders need to have the skills and be comfortable with having those hard conversations by:

  • Beginning from a place of positivity, respect, and a focus on a positive outcome that supports the strategy, goals and objectives. Stop worrying about being liked. People who avoid conflict worry to much about being liked and not enough about doing the right thing for the other person and the business.
  • Being direct. Be open, honest, and fair. Don’t try to hide or make up positive things if there aren’t positive things to discuss.
  • Not putting it off. If you need to have a hard conversation, have it, schedule it, and don’t be afraid of it. Everyone will feel better.
  • Expecting a positive outcome. Have a positive mindset and focus on a solution. If you go into a hard feedback conversation with an expectation that you are going to blame, punish, or “hold someone accountable, the short-term and long-term outcomes are going to be negative for all.
  • Focusing on what you're hearing, not what you're saying. During a hard conversation, listening is the most critical part of the conversation. Go into the conversation with the intent of listening as much as you are sharing.
  • Make sure you have a plan, have practiced, and have thought through all of the possible outcomes.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

It’s easy to water down feedback by not being as direct or by sharing positive things that don’t have meaning to this conversation. When planning for hard conversations it is critical to engage in a meaningful and direct conversation where you say exactly what you mean and truly mean what you are saying. The other person you are engaged with will either directly, or at some point, thank you for that approach.

In summary, teaching leaders to be more human starts with providing them the skills to be more human such as the ability to provide strong, open, and honest feedback that is done when appropriate and not avoided because it’s uncomfortable.


Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.