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Looking for a Human Leader in the Age of Robots? You Will Know Them by 6 Rare Traits

The idea of a more human workplace is gaining speed. But what does it actually look like? It all starts with great leadership.

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BY Marcel Schwantes - 23 Aug 2018

Looking for a Human Leader in the Age of Robots? You Will Know Them by 6 Rare Traits

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The advantage of working on a manuscript for eventual book publishing means I get to give my readers tasty morsels and sneak previews of interviews with CEOs, research findings, and firsthand accounts of what it means to be a truly human leader.

For this piece, I'm focusing on helping every leader at every level hopefully answer the question, "How do I value my people at work?"

Let's start with these six key practices of the best servant-leaders.

1. Foster more human connections.

To truly value people, you have to get to know them. More specifically, learn about who they are as people -- learn their personal stories and values and interests and goals.

Good leaders will foster more human connections by also helping employees know each other's stories too.

2. Value employees as partners.

When you treat people like equal partners, rather than functions or numbers to be manipulated for profit, it enhances their sense of personal value, which increases productivity.

That means giving employees a voice and the freedom to create, experiment, fail, and try new things.

3. Help employees find the right roles.

Each person is unique and brings a distinctive set of skills and temperament and learning style to work.

To fully leverage their uniqueness, leaders need to help employees to better understand and identify their natural cognitive capabilities -- what makes them think and work at their best.

Using the best behavioral assessment tools, leaders can unearth hidden capabilities and work together with employees to craft meaningful jobs where they'll excel.

4. Give consistent guidance.

High performing leaders responsibly give guidance, direction, and feedback on their employees' work and performance on a consistent basis.

This is crucial because people naturally want to know how they're doing and what's going on. It pays off in the long run too.

Research by Gallup found that the second most-common mistake that leads to turnover is lack of communication, like, for example, not clarifying goals and expectations, especially during times of change and transition.

5. Push decision-making authority down to lower ranks.

That's because we have moved full-force into a knowledge economy, where high-skilled workers are valued more than ever.

When you decentralize the workplace and push authority down and allow people to make decisions in an autonomous environment, you've got 'em from the neck up; people feel psychologically safe, and respected for their abilities and for exercising their judgment.

6. Never forget the importance of work-life balance.

Human-centered organizations that care about their employees' productivity and well-being will not tolerate a culture of overwork that can potentially burn them out.

They safeguard family priorities and the employee experience with work-life integration reinforced daily. And it all starts with leadership setting the expectation.

Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks, shared with me a New Year's letter he wrote to his team members stressing the importance of putting family first. Here's an excerpt:

[A]s we value each other as the KIND Family, make sure to also prioritize and appreciate your own families -- take nobody for granted, enjoy your loved ones, share how you feel, and soak them up every day. We all have a commitment to each other to work hard, but we have an even more important contract to ensure balance in our lives and with our loved ones.

So there you have it. To fully motivate and connect to the hearts and minds of workers, people in positions of influence will make a world of difference by leading and applying human value with these principles. Ultimately, it may be the difference between success or failure.

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