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Nov 20, 2023
6 min

The Importance of Humanizing Leadership

As leaders, those around us look to us for direction, mentorship, and advice. Our roles inform how others interact with us and, by extension, the extent of the candor they afford us. Leadership calls us to embody competence, justice, and responsibility, among other virtues. It's an impossible standard by any measure. After all, we're only human. While valuable, the disconnect leaders feel as they interact with their teams can be limiting. It's the space between authority and stewardship. In this blog, I discuss the importance of humanizing leadership for today's corporate leaders and some steps we can take to tread closer to our humanity.

Practicing Prudence

To me, prudence means being intentional about planning for the future and preparing your team for challenges and triumphs. It allows you to apply practical wisdom in ways other employees can understand and emulate. It's how we justify procedure, exercise temperance, and extend autonomy without resorting to the authority of our stations. Prudent leadership allows us to act from the point of competence and experience, inadvertently humanizing our choices. 

Prudence is an important virtue for leaders. It helps us handle different situations better, often to the benefit of our teams, organizations, and ourselves. At Calix, we exercise prudence through the 'Cares Budget.' This is an account our leaders can turn to should they need to send personalized gifts to their direct reports in times of calamity or as tokens of added appreciation.

Trust and Growth

According to this article, high-trust companies report 106% more energy at work, 76% more engagement, 74% less stress, 50% more productivity, 40% less burnout, 29% more satisfaction, and 13% fewer sick days. Further, a recent PwC survey found that 91% of business executives say their capacity to build and maintain trust positively impacts their bottom line. Trust is an essential resource for leaders. 

Your employees expect both direction and guidance from you. Direction comes with your position; it's your job to delegate tasks and ensure their completion. Most leaders tend to be more efficient at direction than at guidance. Guidance goes beyond simply providing deliverables for your team. It asks that we listen, support, encourage, and advise them. Our humanity calls us to be curious about our employees' needs, professional fulfillment, and how we can help them realize their goals. 

Another way to humanize leadership is through creating a culture where team members can learn from each other. By actively participating in the learning process, leaders demonstrate humility, openness, and the importance of learning from peers. Learning together as a team leads to collective growth, another essential ledge from which you lead with your humanity. 

Confident Humility

Many psychologists say that hyper-successful leaders have an air of self-importance attached to them. While a leader must acknowledge the value of their input, it's equally important to be humble. The Wharton School of UPENN defines confident humility as the capacity for leaders to be secure enough in their competence and strengths to recognize and own their ignorance and weaknesses. Confident humility enables you to effectively lead your team and assume a learner's mindset when needed. 

In leadership, there's a pressure to project an aura of professional omniscience. The job demands a bird's eye view of internal company structures, organizational vision, and industry trends. This image can make us seem infallible and, to some extent, super-human. However, it's important to be vulnerable and say, "I'm not sure how to go about this, but I'm sure we can figure it out." When we acknowledge our limitations, we build trust and authenticity in our teams. 

Approachability over Accessibility

Leadership is a team sport and should be treated as such, especially when navigating day-to-day tasks. Being accessible to your team is a great first step, but being approachable makes a great leader. Being accessible creates contact points and interaction with your employees, which inform how you talk and interact with your team members.

Being approachable makes it easy for your employees to raise problems that may impede optimal performance, admit mistakes, and ask for help. 

So, while accessibility puts you in the right place at the right time, approachability ensures that the conversation flows smoothly once you're there. One is about logistics; the other is about emotional intelligence. You want to aim for a blend of both — a leader who's easy to find and a joy to talk to.

Cultural and Individual Backgrounds

The overlap between leadership and humanity is unending, and it's important that we continuously find ways to bridge the gap between the perception of leadership and our humanity. As I look to the future, I find myself thinking about the role of culture and our contextual backgrounds in how we choose to lead. The world is becoming more interconnected, which means more diverse groups of people have the opportunity to work together than ever before. 

Our cultural backgrounds are what influence our worldview and individual behaviors. Together with our individual backgrounds, they underpin who we are at our core. The Calix future-forward approach to incorporating hybrid work environments and leveraging a diverse global workforce brings this into perspective. 

We owe it to ourselves to tap into the wealth of culture in our shared spaces. Our lived experiences not only emphasize our humanity but also create spaces where our diversity becomes an integral part of how we drive innovation and our impact. 

Join Our Team

We have exciting opportunities for people who are intentional about shaping the Broadband experience for the world around them. Join a company renowned for its exceptional culture. 

Here are the current openings you can apply for and become a part of a company with an impeccable culture.

Senior Vice President, Talent and Culture

Parul Kapoor is the senior vice president, talent and culture at Calix. Parul leads the global talent and culture team and the operations supporting Calix’s 800+ employees around the world. Parul previously held leadership roles at Cadence Design Systems and Google. Parul has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Delhi and an MBA from the Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development in Pune.

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