Human Centric Leadership – Core of Innovation

The value of human centric leadership is demonstrated in Ed Catmull’s book “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” Ed is the President of Disney Animation Studios and co-founder of Pixar, one of the world’s most creative and innovative companies. So when he uses an unusual word in the context of the employee experience, and innovation, it is worth noting. It is not a word ever heard in my MBA program. Yet he uses it freely and openly. It is the word “love.” In discussing the need for candor, in a process called brain trust, he states, “frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love.” Is there a better word to describe human centric leadership?

The Reality of an Unfortunate Word

Unfortunately, we equate love with romance. Therefore, we don’t usually use it in the context of leading high performing teams. It is a word that makes me uncomfortable. Yet, in separate interviews with two senior officers of the U.S. Army used the word, love, I had to take notice. One officer was a full colonel, Army Ranger, and member of the Special Forces. The other was a 32-year veteran, holder of multiple purpose hearts, and a 4 Star General by the name of Barry McCaffrey. When I asked both officers how the Army approaches leadership, they immediately mentioned servant leadership and then spoke candidly of love. Human centric leadership is not something I was expecting to hear, but it was plainly evident from my conversations with of these outstanding leaders.

Human Centric Leadership is Tough Leadership

The U.S. Army has a core value, “put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.” Is there a better way of describing love than this? When leaders in our healthcare institutions, manufacturing companies, and technology firms were to “put the welfare of your customers, your firm, and your subordinate before your own” it would open a universe of opportunity. It makes me wonder how fast customers would be stampeding to the doorstep as well as the most highly qualified candidates for work.

But how to do create human centric leadership across the organization? How can we create organizational cultures where every leader, not just a few, but every leader, puts the welfare of the customer, the firm, and subordinates above their own? This is a high calling for leadership, and will require a designed system. Only by making leadership a designed system, will this kind of extraordinary performance be realized.