The Most Challenging Person for a Human-Centered Leader

To be a human-centered leader requires compassion, empathy, and kindness for someone it’s easy to overlook.

If you’re serious about becoming a more human-centered leader, it’s vital to master one specific relationship: the one with yourself.

This is a leadership relationship I often overlook.

It’s so easy to have compassion and grace for other people while pushing myself for more and holding myself to an unreasonable standard of perfection or achievement.

When I drift away from the positive leadership practices we dedicate our lives to sharing with the world, it’s almost always because I’m not leading myself.

And it makes sense–how can you possibly maintain empathy for others if you’re not acknowledging your own feelings? How could you have grace and compassion for your team if you don’t have it for yourself? How can you maintain patience and curiosity when you exhaust yourself?

In short, you can’t.

This is an Achilles heel for many leaders. Karin and I have the privilege to work with leaders around the world who inspire us every day with their commitment to their people. We meet amazing leaders who treat their teams with the utmost dignity and respect, inspire everyone around them, and teach us with their skillful focus.

And I know that some of these leaders wrestle with their anxiety, depression, or feelings of burnout and inadequacy. I know because they’ll tell me. And I know because I do too.

Be the Human-Centered Leader You’d Want Your Boss to Be

I end every episode of my podcast by inviting you to “Be the leader you’d want your boss to be.”

Today, I invite you to extend that principle to how you’re leading yourself. How are you caring for you?

Let’s start with a few questions that can help you be a more human-centered leader for yourself:

  • Do you have the same patience for your learning, mistakes, and growth as you do for your team?
  • When you experience prolonged anxiety or depression, do you give yourself a minute to deal with it (or do you keep driving through it)?
  • Do you invest time in healing and nurturing relationships–whether with friends, family, a therapist, a coach, or all of the above?
  • Are you getting enough sleep? (Whatever it is you need that helps you function at your best.)
  • Are you getting enough exercise? (Whatever activity keeps your mind sharp and body working the way you want it to.)
  • Are you investing in your own growth and professional development the way you hope your team will grow?
  • Do you invest time in professional relationships that will support and nurture your work and growth?
  • Can you approach your frustrations and challenges with curiosity?
  • Do you consistently make time to think about what you’re doing and why (or are you constantly in reaction mode)?

No Guilt Allowed

If you read these questions and feel guilt … stop. Guilt isn’t the point. It’s not another list of things you’ve got to do or feel inadequate about.

These questions are a thermometer. If you take your temperature and have a fever, there’s nothing to feel guilty about; it’s just data–information you can use to care for your body and get healthy.

So, if you’re reading these questions and they paint a picture of self-neglect, please know that the most important way you can show up as a human-centered leader for your team, your organization, and your mission, is to show up for yourself.

You can’t do it all at once. Pick one item. Start there and start small. Then add to it.

Your Turn

I’m working on these items myself. I haven’t arrived or perfected one of them–but I’m on the journey and there’s always more to learn.

I’d love to hear from you: what do you do to ensure you’re showing up as a human-centered leader–for yourself?

Related: How to Manage a Friend at Work