Become obsessed with being human

Leadership is the public expression of what it means to be human. People are watching you closely as you lead them. Every shortcoming and every victory is there for all to see. It’s time to step into your own humanity; to recognize that you’ll do good, you’ll make mistakes, you will be strong, you will be fearful, you will be confident, and you will doubt.

Become obsessed with your own humanity, embracing the light and the dark side of yourself. Learn and go on even when you feel you can’t; be humble when you want to swagger. Being visible as a leader doesn’t mean being something you aren’t. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. People will accept and follow precisely because you show them what it means to be human even when it’s not pretty.

Being obsessed with being human happens when you are a keen and intentional observer of yourself and other’s reactions to you. After that, your willingness to express who you are without holding back and your ability to apologize for your (all too human) mistakes will send you further along the road to being the best human – and leader – you can be.

Know who you are. This is the foundation for great leadership. The first step to knowing yourself is to relentlessly observe your thoughts, words and actions. This requires reflection and the ability to be mindful. What do you observe to be your strengths? What are your weaknesses? (By the way, you must be aware of both!). Observe others’ as they react to you. Are your behaviors causing the right reactions? Are they ones you want to accelerate or dial back?

Be vulnerable. Being willing to be vulnerable isn’t a weakness – indeed, allowing yourself to be seen as someone who is less than perfect is a courageous act, requiring an open heart. Vulnerability strengthens the bonds between you and others by showing them that you, too, are human. The things we have in common with others are most often those that challenge us. Don’t hide them but don’t showcase them either. Let them be seen, and ask for help when you need it.

Make no excuses for who you are, in all of your wonderful and imperfect magnificence. Our workplaces are filled with people passing the buck and grandstanding, egos that hide humanity. Stay humble and accept every aspect of who you are, the good and the less-than-good. Learn from all of it. Decide what will make you a better human being and place your intentions for improvement there.

Apologize when you hurt others because even with your best efforts at being the best human you can be, you will do unintentional harm. Anything less than a sincere apology is unacceptable. Don’t excuse yourself from doing this for the reason that you “didn’t mean it”. Because you are obsessed with being human, you will learn from what you did and from the apology you make and be a better leader for it.

Step into your humanity. Become obsessed with it, and others will follow. The result is a workplace that the best humans (and leaders) can be proud to be a part of.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.