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Human Resources

Only 29% of employees say their leader shows ‘human leadership’

Health Industry Hub | June 24, 2022 |
[Total: 1    Average: 4/5]

Human Resources: A survey of more than 230 HR leaders revealed that 90% believe that to succeed in today’s work environment, leaders must focus on the human aspects of leadership. Yet, nearly 3,400 employees reported that just 29% of their leader is a ‘human leader’ highlighting the significance of lifelong learning for professional development.

Gartner research has identified three components that make up human leadership:

  • Authentic: Act with purpose and enable true self-expression, for both themselves and their teams.
  • Empathetic: Show genuine care, respect and concern for employees’ well-being.
  • Adaptive: Enable flexibility and support that fits team members’ unique needs.

“Organisations that are able to develop more human leaders will find that these leaders’ teams have less turnover, higher engagement scores and better well-being,” said Caitlin Duffy, director of research in the Gartner HR practice.

“Although these qualities may have been important for good leadership in the past, today they are non-negotiable – particularly to compete in today’s new talent landscape.”

A 37-percentage point increase was reported in the number of employees experiencing high engagement who report to a human leader versus employees who do not consider their leader to be a human leader. This increase is significant – highly engaged employees improve their team’s performance by up to 27%.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of HR leaders believe that making the business case for human leadership is a high-priority investment for the next year.

To gain leaders’ commitment to a more human leadership approach, HR should leverage trusted sources – peers and employees themselves – to make the business case to leaders. For example, HR can convene a dynamic group of impactful, well-respected leaders who believe in – and act on – human leadership. These progressive leaders can work to set new leadership expectations for the organisation that are both current and relevant to the realities of leaders’ roles, while providing ongoing support.

Gartner’s March 2022 leader survey found that nearly half of business leaders feel their actions as a leader are more scrutinised compared to three years ago. Nearly one-third of business leaders who are ineffective at human leadership worry mishandling sensitive issues could damage their reputation.

“HR typically provides leaders with development and training on navigating sensitive situations and creating a psychologically safe environment, but these efforts are missing the mark,” said Jérôme Mackowiak, director of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “In today’s environment, discomfort is inevitable as leaders address topics that can never be made comfortable or safe.”

Rather than trying to eliminate fear, HR needs to give leaders the courage to act despite their fear by teaching them how to exhibit positive behaviours when they are afraid. Leaders need to develop deep self-awareness to understand how their fears impact them and enable them to take ownership of their behaviour. Lastly, leaders need more support for high-risk situations, such as “ask-me-anything” sessions with employees.

“Today’s work environment illuminates a striking dichotomy – asking people to show up to work authentically and bring their whole self, while requiring leaders to deliver fair, equitable and scalable outcomes,” said Mackowiak.

Giving leaders tools to quickly determine which actions they can take that will have the highest impact reduces the scope of potential next steps. HR can also remove ambiguity from leader-employee interactions by helping leaders identify signs that their approach is ineffective so they can adapt in real time.

“Adopting these strategies to develop human leaders will enable organisations to increase the number of human leaders from 29% to 48%,” said Duffy.


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