Leaders are humans too

first published on LinkedIn 1 April 2107

I read an article this week about empathy in relation to leadership. How leaders need to have empathy for others. It creates trust. Trust allows people to be the best they can be which supports organisations to be successful. Someone agreeing then asked why so many leaders were useless at it. I got irritated.

No matter who we follow there is a plethora of advice on how to be a great leader. A quick google on how to support a leader finds us in the realms of religion and spirituality. Religious or not, it can feel lonely at the top, and leaders are human too. Here are three things we can do tomorrow to show support.

Be passionate, committed and proactive

Appreciating the leader is the person who sets the tone for an organisation, we are on a hiding to nothing if we expect one person to be continuously responsible for passion, commitment and proactivity. Unless you are being led by artificial intelligence or you do not care (it is time to leave) leadership is a team sport, is role-neutral, and everyone can play their part.

Take complaining. It is easy to get caught up in complaining, even though it impacts morale, shrinks our brain and reduces empathy. Next time a grizzle emerges practice applied leadership. Wade in focused on a solution. If context is missing Saatchi and Saatchi’s Lessons from Geese, is an oldie and a goodie, speaking to the power of team and the benefits of ‘quality honking’.


The world of work is fast-paced, competitive and complex. Leaders have to deal with multiple demands while leading by example. It is a tall order to be all things to all people, all the time. We tend to expect it though.

Managing our boss is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when we spring out of bed. Whether our boss is easy or difficult, always or sometimes, managing up gets us thinking about what we can do more of, less of, or get rid of in order to better understand and support our person-in-charge. At the very least trying to understand things from their perspective will give him or her a break, and we get to practice being positive, committed and proactive. Doing it when we feel the opposite delivers insight on steroids.

Be courageous

Taking on things that frighten us is not as scary as it sounds once we have done the scary thing. It is getting the courage to do it that puts us off. Being courageous in a workplace can feel very courageous no matter where we sit in the pecking order because workplaces have the final say over security of tenure. One reason why courage is leadership.

Leading is not for the faint-hearted. It is a bit like parenting or learning a new skill. Moments of conscious competence sandwiched between a lot of conscious incompetence. Just when we think we have the hang of it, something in our environment changes and we feel we are back at the beginning.

I have been privileged to have been in leadership positions throughout my career, supported by people who had the courage to tell me what I needed to know. Sometimes I had the headspace to hear, sometimes I needed reminding. What I have learned is the world is not short on leadership. It comes in all shapes and sizes, found in all parts of our organisations, and can be subtle, so we need to be alert to spot it.

It is also one of the characteristics that makes human beings very special.

Julie Hood has worked in health and not-for-profit association leadership for over thirty years. She is driven by a passion to help people in organisations uncover their courage, back themselves to set big goals that make a difference, and have fun.

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