The word “leader” often conjures up an image of a driven, successful, almost super-human person who has the power to shape the world around them with their ample amounts of charisma, work ethic, intelligence, and powers of persuasion. Leaders are looked up to in times of crisis, and they are counted on to keep a level head in any situation. This status sometimes lends an air of invulnerability to these people; they are sometimes seen as not possessing human flaws and emotions. That cannot be further from the truth – no matter how confident and head-strong leaders can seem, they feel the same fears, indecisiveness, and insecurities we do. They may put on a facade of invincibility, but they are just as human as you and me.
Of course, your team may not necessarily see things in such a logical light. As a leader, your team isn’t just going to look at you for guidance – they’ll also expect support. The way in which you present yourself to your team will have an impact on how they perform in the workplace. Workers are happier and more productive when they know that they are supported and valued. Treating your workers as though they only exist to meet your own goals is no way to earn their loyalty and support.
Humanizing yourself to your team means dropping the invincibility act and opening yourself up as a relatable human being. If your team sees you as having qualities they can relate to, they will not see you as weak – they’ll only respect you more. If you see yourself as falling short of that goal, these following tips might help break the ice.
1) Be Authentic
Managers who dress in nice suits and bust out tired corporate buzzwords are a dime a dozen. While some people mistakenly think that this is what a good manager does, it actually makes you indistinguishable from the herd of people that also think this way. Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or to let your team make mistakes too. Don’t spend all of your time focusing on superficial details, because it’ll come at the expense of actual substance. Your employees don’t want a person that comes off as overly slick, because it’ll only make them think that you aren’t trustworthy. Exposing yourself as honest and imperfect will go a long way towards gaining the trust of your team.
2) Give everybody a chance to improve
Yes, that means you too. You might the boss of other people, but that doesn’t mean that you are above any kind of criticism, nor does it means that you can’t make any serious mistakes. Leaders who perceive themselves as being better than their subordinates rarely perform as well as those who don’t. The Dunning-Kruger effect describes the phenomenon of the arrogant yet incompetent manager quite well. Don’t be like those people – no matter how skilled you are at what you do, you can always do something just a little bit better. Merely acknowledging your own shortcomings as a person will go a long way towards improving your team’s perception of you as a person, as well as promoting your own personal growth as a leader.
Your workers are not machines – they are people like you and me. Maintaining a professional distance from your subordinates is expected, and we aren’t suggesting that you get overly chummy with the people who work under you. What is advisable is for you to show a genuine concern for them as people, and understand that their own experiences and lives can have an impact on their performance at work. For example, if somebody starts calling out of work and completing fewer projects, don’t just punish them. Talk to them as people – they might open up to you about something that happened in their personal lives. Showing concern for them as individuals will make them trust you and support you. Humanizing your workforce is what many companies that suffer from high turnover and low morale often lack.