About This Episode
Our guest in this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a SUCCESS magazine podcast, is none other than Hamza Khan, global keynote speaker and bestselling author of books such as Leadership Reinvented and The Burnout Gamble. He shares his unique insights about the future of work and how entrepreneurs can become better, more human-centric leaders in the workplace.
Since we were kids, we have been taught the value of empathy and being nice to others. We were taught to share, how to play nice, and to include other kids in our games. But as we grow older, especially at work, these basic lessons seem to have been forgotten.
We all seek to become better leaders. But in order to understand how we can become good leaders; we need to get a clearer picture of what it means to be a bad one.
According to Hamza, what the bad bosses and managers, narcissists, psychopaths, Machiavellian leaders, and villains, whether real or fictional, have in common is the D-factor of personality traits: that is, “the relentless pursuit of individual utility, or maximizing gains for yourself, while accepting, neglecting, or malevolently provoking dis-utility for others.”
Bad leadership, according to Hamza, manifests itself in the workplace in the simplest ways. It often starts with good intentions, like prioritizing media exposure, boosting your own image, and deluding yourself into believing that you are doing it for the company’s revenue and brand exposure when you are really just doing it for yourself.
When leaders drop the ball and neglect to focus on what truly matters—such as creating meaningful relationships and empowering the people they lead—it could lead to catastrophic repercussions, not just for them and their companies but for the people under their leadership as well.
He wrote the book and researched how bad leaders tick in order to figure out solutions and fix the problem.
So, how can we become better leaders? Hamza hones in on four values that he believes are what the world currently needs from all of its leaders.
In the workplace, the lack of empathy and humility often blocks us from really working together and getting things done. We often think of empathy as a “soft” skill, but Hamza believes it is as technical as it can get, and is probably the most important skill any leader must cultivate.
Hamza believes that empathy is the genesis of human-centric leadership, and it is the value that gets to the heart of every leadership issue.
“It feels like the evolution of [bad] leadership in organizational behavior is rooted very much in fear and scarcity of resources,” Hamza shares. “…And as a result, you get these maladaptive forms of leadership.”
And the opposite of fear, according to him, is love—not the romantic, HR-violation kind—but the platonic, unconditionally positive regard that you extend for your friends, family, and loved ones. We learn to be more human-centered, empathetic, compassionate, honest, open, and transparent leaders when "love" is incorporated into business and the workplace.
“I’m essentially asking people to see the human before they see the resource,” Hamza says.
Empathy is also often defined as:
- “Standing in somebody else’s shoes”
- “Seeing with their eyes”
- “Feeling with their heart”
What those definitions have in common is simple: they both require suspending one’s ego and truly inhabiting another person’s world—a feat that leaders find difficult given the amount and level of demands on our time, energy, and attention.
We could get so fixated on the bottom line, trying to put out fires and solve problems in our businesses ourselves, that we never get to the empathy part. But, when we anchor ourselves to our “why” and keep ourselves aligned with our principles and purpose, when we empathize with our stakeholders: our clients, customers, employees, and shareholders; and learn to put other people first, the business usually figures itself out.
At the end of the day, entrepreneurs need to meet hard metrics and close deals to make sure the business continues running, but when we leave the people part out, it isn’t a sustainable success.
When it comes to servitude or “servant leadership,” Hamza’s image of it is closer to Jesus Christ serving others. As leaders, our goal is to be of service to our team, our stakeholders, and our community.
In our teams, it is about maximizing the potential of our people and investing in their growth and development, even if there is the possibility of them leaving the organization.
“That’s what servitude is,” Hamza says, “the relentless belief in maximizing others’ potential.”
Diversity and inclusion are no longer just nice-to-haves in the workplace—they are must-haves. It will help us as leaders, and it will definitely benefit our businesses.
“…The business case for diversity is the diversity of background, perspective, and experiences. That's what we need as leaders,” Hamza says, “because when we have that, we have better situational awareness, a better understanding of changes on the inside and the outside of the organization.”
When we empower diverse people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, gender orientations, ages, ideologies, thinking styles, physical status, et cetera, we get better access to information and people who can anticipate and respond to changes when they inevitably happen.
And it is not just about hiring diverse people; it is also about empowering them.
“It's not black and white… Simply hiring people that are diverse isn't enough. You actually have to activate them. You have to include them. Diversity is inviting people to the party; inclusion is asking them to dance,” Hamza says.
According to Hamza, innovation is the ability to identify patterns over time, simplify processes, and create new ideas, thoughts, and imaginations that (1) deviate from the status quo, and (2) anticipate and respond to change before change is required.
“In many ways, innovation is a byproduct of diversity, of empathy, and of servitude,” Hamza says. “Because if you enable people properly… if you get out of their way and allow them to achieve self-actualization and give them the ability to make decisions if you as a leader create more leaders, I think the natural byproduct is enhanced innovation capacity.”
Without empathy, servitude, or diversity and inclusion, you have no true innovation that takes hold.
The Bright SIDE of Leadership
Hamza’s model for human-centric leadership isn’t linear. It doesn’t happen in sequence; rather, it is maximizing and operationalizing all four simultaneously. Think of it like a skill map: some sides might be spiking higher than others, but the point is to work on all four: empathy, servitude, innovation, and diversity.
“But know that this is a lifelong journey,” Hamza reminds us. “You’re not going to do it in one quarter. You’re not going to do it in one month, one year. It’s probably going to take the rest of your career as a leader to get there.”
Listen to the podcast to learn more about how we can become more effective human-centric leaders.
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DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.