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Are you practicing human centered leadership?

By Aditi Patil

Great leaders are human first. But what makes someone a human leader?

The equation is simple: Authenticity + empathy + adaptivity = human-centered leadership

Why are human leaders important?

Human leaders are important because they help keep employees engaged.

According to Gartner, “Research found a 37-percentage point increase in the number of employees reporting 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%.”

Our world changed during the pandemic when our home and work life collided. Leading a hybrid workforce requires a dramatically different approach.

We can no longer prioritize efficiency over flexibility, workplace boundaries over self-expression or work needs over life needs.

How to become a human leader

Start by displaying authenticity. Authenticity is defined as being true to yourself, being sincere and being true to your values. Authentic leaders are vulnerable, open and transparent. They also genuinely care about the well-being of the people on their team.

Authentic leaders model the way with their self-expression at work. For example, Indra Nooyi didn’t shy away from wearing a saree — a traditional Indian garment — in her early days in the United States.

However, authenticity is nuanced and complicated. Watch this Ted Talk by Dr. Herminia Ibarra to learn more.

You also need to be empathetic. Brené Brown talks about empathy as the ability to effortlessly tap into the perspective of others by connecting with a similar emotion they hold.

Additionally, the research of Theresa Wiseman demystifies empathy as having these four attributes:

  1. To be able to see the world as others see it
  2. To be nonjudgmental
  3. To understand another person’s feelings
  4. To communicate the understanding of that person’s feelings

Developing human leadership skills

In your human leadership journey, pick one action to focus on:

  • Authenticity: Share an aspect of your identity that you haven't shared with your team before, such as a personal story, a story about your heritage or your values.
  • Empathy: In your next conversation with your team, practice empathic listening by immersing yourself in their story.
  • Adaptivity: Schedule one-on-one time with each member of your team and ask them what they value most about their workplace, how they like to be appreciated or how you can support them to achieve their goals.


Aditi Patil is a manager in Wipfli’s talent and organizational development team who writes the Everyday leadership with Aditi series on LinkedIn. Learn more about how Wipfli invests in associate growth and explore open positions in our careers section.

Aditi Patil

Aditi Patil
Manager, Talent & Org Development

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