Human-centric leading (HCL) is a leadership model and toolkit that empowers leaders and team players to solve problems and bring out the best in people by reframing the context. From assuming (at the subconscious level) that people are cogs in a wheel to seeing people as people with emotional needs and unlimited potential, leaders design positive cultures in which everyone thrives. Developed/distilled by Leaders for Good (LfG) founder Eleni Pallas, HCL has emerged as one of the most effective tools that’s universally applicable.
Note: Some people worry that HCL’s centricity around humans reinforces unhealthy narcissism or ignores Mother Nature. Quite the contrary. HCL is a way to respect people’s inherent value and unlimited potential, which results in a natural desire to help others and care for our natural habitat.
Let’s Start at the Beginning: We’re Socialized as Cogs in a Wheel
Humans are conscious beings, born with inherent value and unlimited potential. Before being socialized, we are curious, trusting, generous, connected, imaginative and we love to learn. We are open to new experiences and untainted by assumptions, expectations, limitations or fears of failure.
As we develop, we learn to see ourselves and others as cogs in a wheel. How? Through a reward and punishment model that focuses our attention on proving our worth with visible achievements, insinuating that we have no inherent value and are only as good as our next accomplishment.
The reward and punishment model is the foundation of our education system, which was established during the Industrial Revolution. It encourages machine-like routine and standardized behavior with little room for unique expression, creativity or diversity. Through repetition, this perspective becomes embedded into our subconscious minds, influencing every conscious thought, feeling and behavior through adulthood. Unless our standardized education is disrupted by messages that we are inherently valuable, we learn to see ourselves and others as cogs in a wheel. We learn to equate what we do with who we are — our identity.
It is this cog in a wheel mentality that is at the root of today’s organizational and societal problems — and many leaders, maybe even you, do not even realize it. Why? Because we are not taught to question our subconscious assumptions about what it means to be human.
The Cog Mentality in Organizational Life
The cog in a wheel mentality shapes our thoughts, feelings and behavior in unresourceful ways. As we do with ourselves, we start to see others as inherently worthless, who need to prove their worth with visible achievements. To affect change, we criticize, judge and blame, expecting that these behaviors yield the best results. However, what happens is that they create a domino-effect of unwanted outcomes such as low engagement, conflict, low creativity and innovation rates, talent turnover.
Unfortunately, the grand majority of organizations around the world are based on the subconscious foundation or “operating system” of the cog in a wheel mentality.
Treating people as cogs generates specific emotions such as feeling anxious about making mistakes, being judged, embarrassed, ridiculed or fired. These feelings lead to specific and predictable behavior that keep people in survival mode, most pointedly, focusing on self-preservation and doing whatever is needed to secure one’s job vs doing what is best for the team or organization.
At the same time, there’s a strong belief within organizations in the bad apple theory, which sees people as good or bad; the removal of the bad ones, protects the good ones. However, this theory has been debunked. Social psychologists have proven that context affects people’s behavior, reminding us that humans behave differently in different environments — think how you behave at work, on vacation, or if you had to go to war. The unfortunate truth is that most demotions, layoffs and firings, which reflect the bad apple theory in action, are futile, costing organizations millions in cash, productivity, opportunity cost and human disenchantment.
The New Organizational Realities
While most people inadvertently use the cog in a wheel mentality, that mindset is being challenged by societal and business changes that demand a more human approach, such as:
- Workforce consciousness shift — where fewer people accept any job just to pay the rent and more people seek purpose and passion to fill their inner need to contribute their best to a meaningful vision
- The economic shift from primarily manufacturing firms to services-oriented organizations that thrive when their employees are engaged, creative and collaborative
These new realities are opportunities for leaders to respond by creating truly positive work cultures — not merely pretense, and attract, engage and retain the best and brightest, all the within a human-centric mentality.
A New Leadership Paradigm
To lead organizations into the emerging future in a deliberate and strategic way, you can use HCL. It is an simple, yet elegant tool that is applicable across contexts and focuses attention on what is needed for people to feel good and align to the end-game, without drama.
HCL integrates what has been proven by neuroscience and positive and social psychology and condenses it into fun and engaging exercises for experiential learning. By adopting HCL, leaders comfortably unravel oft-overwhelming team and organizational problems and create innovative results, even amidst challenges that feel impossible.
What do HCL leaders get? Engaged employees who feel respected, appreciated and safe enough to share their best around a meaningful vision.
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Want to connect? Contact us to transform your teams from survival mode to thriving, even amidst today’s uncertain times. You will wonder why we haven’t been using HCL all along.