Leading with humanity

Leading with humanity

Leading with humanity, empathy and authenticity: What it means and why it’s not just viable but critical. With our Strategic Advisor and Transformation Consultant, Ian Buckingham.

The pandemic was probably the most chastening social experience since the world wars. Especially for those in frontline leadership roles. If it wasn’t, for you, then you may have an empathy challenge and should probably take a break until the fog clears. Honestly!


Shock and disruption aside, we’ll probably never know the true human tragedy directly attributable to the disease, but it’s staggering. Worse still, we’ll never get to fully understand the hidden toll from the economic pandemic that shortly followed global lockdown’s tail. So, if you remain oddly unfazed by the human catastrophe, you should at least be able to recognise the devastation caused by the disruption to global trading and the subtler impact that Covid-19 and the prolonged contingency working has had on your key workers. And you should be striving to find a way to boost their coping mechanisms….and your own.


From what we’ve seen as consultants, most organisations leaned very heavily on the 20-40% of their colleagues who generate 80% of their outputs, while much of the rest went knowingly AWOL for an extended time, fighting their own insecurities, doubts and fears. Problem is, the same 20-40% have had to pivot several times now to deal with many conflicting demands that have arisen since,  as most businesses settle back into old ways of working complete with commute, office and command and control structures. The fact is, the old system is no longer fully serving them.


They’ve also become accustomed to a lot more balance in their lives, have started to question where they get their self-actualisation from, and may have begun to look at alternatives to resuming the old normal. The same, however, can’t be said for the “working dead” who are marking down the days to retirement or redundancy, while making the most of the resources at work I exaggerate to emphasise the point but, I know you know what I mean.


The leadership paradigm has shifted, as has the old-style employer/employee psychological contract. Have you adapted in the same vein?

There’s been a lot of talk about human or humane leadership traits now that the dust has settled. It seems that people grew accustomed to seeing their managers in their natural habitats and quite liked the fact that they could all be themselves a little more, when all faced with a common enemy, an invisible threat that doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of status.

We have had increasing enquiries from leaders and managers concerned about the sustained pressure that their people have been under and asking for fresh approaches to coaching and mentoring that is a little more ethical, responsive and, dare we say, sustainable in this complex new world.


Now, some of you will snort, with scepticism at this point, especially those who recall how certain high profile business schools suddenly started talking about ethics and morality again after the banking thoroughbreds bolted from their golden stables at the turn of the century and almost collapsed global economies. Of course, very little changed other than a few more values and behaviours workshops, equality and diversity management roles, expensive ad campaigns and some re-arranging of top jobs. But this time, things are different. Because this time, the burning platforms has at least singed us all. And this time, there are no “off the shelf” workarounds and platitudes to resort to.


This time, both the leaders and their teams need to change and it isn’t sector specific. To illustrate my point, last month we announced the first of our annual Mosaic Top Ten Future Fit Leadership Traits rankings. As we announced, this will become an annual event, in conjunction with a leading business school (watch this space). We’ve just completed a deep diagnostic of a client’s leadership and management teams and, without any form of consultation, their leaders AND managers, as separate groups, both ordered the top five leadership traits exactly the same with Human, Ethical and Sustainable all near the top. The key point here is that these traits aren’t the pandering, politically correct stuff of the pipe dreams of the past which are feasted upon by the dogs of commercial war and competition, they ARE the traits that will enable future fit leaders to adapt and lead by listening and with empathy, responding and becoming comfortable with increasing ambiguity. Do you really doubt that the world of work isn’t going to become an increasingly complex place? Think leaders will survive by adhering steadfastly to models that applied to simpler times? Are you even the same person you were pre-pandemic? How did you use the time to reflect and dream and change? Intend to stick by those resolutions or, like a stress ball, are you resuming the old shape?


You may be interested to know that alongside Leadership Reflections thought pieces like this one, the team at Mosaic will be launching a podcast as well as running at least four Masterclass Workshops on key themes, this year. The first will be in Spring and will be packed with best practices, on these topics, for the HR, line management and general leadership communities. So, if you, or a friend or colleague would benefit from discussing the challenges you all face in more detail, picking up a few pragmatic tips and techniques or just wants to vent with like minds, do point your contacts towards our blog where news of the events will appear shortly.


Until we next meet, here’s hoping that your planning for the year ahead is going well. Best wishes for 2023 and beyond from the team at Mosaic. It promises to be a time of continued challenge and opportunity, calling for open minds and fresh thinking.


We look forward to continuing the conversation…

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