When we look at the power of Humanism, it’s really amazing to think how influential this philosophy has been in shaping our lives. It contains nothing less than the guiding principles that have shaped our free and democratic societies. Yet in the today’s business world, we find a role of humanistic teachings has diminished. Many may not even be aware of what Humanism is. There are, however, countless leadership tips for managing people that can still be learned from this philosophy.
What is Humanistic Leadership?
According to Jennifer Hancock, one of the leading writers and lecturers involved in Humanistic Leadership, it is the application of the principles of Humanism to our business lives. Leaders who embrace this philosophy embody 4 core traits:
- Strategic thinking
And understanding these leadership principles has become more critical than ever.
When I say that, please don’t take it as me moralizing or sermonizing. In both our environmental and economic systems today, we see a lack of sustainability. Out of sheer necessity, many in the business community have had to take a long, hard look at not only how their businesses function within the world, but also how they operate internally.
It is becoming more and more evident, that there are some foundational issues. They stem from our having lost sight of the humanistic principles that once guided our thinking. It was those principles, after all, that shaped the environment where we could pursue our individual visions in the first place.
The Cliffs Notes Version
Let’s take a small step back in time, shall we? And this is grossly oversimplifying things, so please, if there are any economic historians out there, I’m already apologizing. But generally speaking, let’s say there once existed a time—pre-industrialization—where you couldn’t really blame people for thinking the supply of natural resources was virtually endless. Basically, the only big challenge was getting to them.
As time passed, however, we humans became very, very good at attaining resources and also turning them into (mostly) useful stuff. Resources started becoming scarcer.
Businesses reacted to this growing scarcity by trying to economize every aspect of their operations, while still continuing to exploit resources at ever–increasing rates.
Fast forward to today. Profits have been king for a long time now. Every aspect of a business is hyper-economized. Even the people are no longer people; they are human resources. We are also faced with increasing economic and environmental instability. The Humanistic Management Center describes the situation as “Plundering over preserving.”
What has changed?
When we started to economize every single aspect of our businesses, we also started shifting our focus to near-term thinking and short-term profiteering. You see this most visibly with publicly traded companies, wanting to impress The Street every quarter. But there’s plenty of this mindset in small businesses just trying to stay afloat as well.
In our current Information Age, however, the market has changed. There is more scrutiny of businesses and how they operate by the consumer than ever before. More frequently, the question, “Are they ethical?” is being asked. Customers are reluctant to support companies that they feel engage in socially irresponsible or environmentally destructive practices.
And it’s not just customers. Employees—increasingly disenchanted with the thought of being nothing more than a human resource—have become less productive. It’s hard to get motivated when you feel like you’re just feeding the machine that crushes your soul. The ones who can seek out situations where they feel they will be valued as a person and treated with respect. The others rest just rebel and browse Facebook all day instead of working.
By and large, business leadership has not caught up to the magnitude of this change. The popular solution is a marketing campaign that says, “We care!” It doesn’t work, though. People are just too savvy.
A Better Response
There is something that does work, however. It ends up being a lot cheaper than paying for a marketing campaign that doesn’t promote your product, and no one believes anyway. In fact, you can think of it as free leadership tip on managing people: Embrace the principles of Humanistic Leadership.
Get back in touch with the philosophy that changed the game for our society to begin with. The ideas that started the revolution and made it so you didn’t have to be a blacksmith because your father was a blacksmith. You weren’t barred from having a career at all because you happened to be female.
Let those values guide your business philosophy. Everyone will see it and get it when they interact with you—employees, prospective employees and customers. They will all rate your business highly. They will be happy to tell people on social media that you are an ethical and reputable business that delivers a great product or service.
This isn’t about being some kind of martyr. Growth is important. Profits are important. But when we give profits primacy over everything, then, by definition, we can’t have any ethics.
In the final analysis, it is about a shift in focus from “make money,” to “make goods and services.” And then follow the 4 principles of Humanistic Leadership.
Compassion: Treat people with respect. Encourage them to be the best they can be. This doesn’t mean we are blindly accepting of everything, that wouldn’t be much of a leadership tip for managing people. It means that we are striving to give people—employees and customers—an opportunity to enhance their lives. We do that because we’re all in this struggle together.
Ethics: Humanistic leadership is about putting ethics back into your work. Your business ethics and your personal ethics can’t come in second place behind your drive for profit. If that is the case, then you don’t have any ethics. Luckily, if you run your business in an ethical manner, you will increase your profits even more.
Reason: Just as important as what we think about, is how we think about it. A great leadership tip in business is asking yourself if you are removing your emotions and prejudices from the equation as much as possible to reach a conclusion. Is reason guiding your expectations of what can be accomplished in any given day?
Strategic: I’ve often talked about how leadership in business involves sharing a vision. But you will not be able to formulate this vision and lead your company through it without the ability to think strategically. It is a way of thinking that, as a manager, you should be constantly cultivating and refining.