Minna Kivimäki: (Change) leadership with a human touch

We at CCEA have been touching leadership a lot lately, especially change leadership. It’s been a bit over a month since the Nordic Business Forum event, where leadership had a big role in the agenda. Also, we hosted a business book club meeting at our office a month ago, with a theme of modern change and change leadership.

If we sum discussions from all the above, the more significantly we see the importance of humaneness in leadership.

Being authentic and courageous

In Nordic Business Forum, Carla Harris pointed out most of all authenticity, trust and clarity in leadership. Being authentic means that one shows their humanity and puts themselves out there. Trust on the other hand comes from someone doing what they have promised. A leader must create clarity on the direction and targets – even when they don’t see those themselves. In addition, Harris pointed out the importance of accepting failure and even celebrating it. She reminded, that a good leader listens to and engages employees. Not to forget courage – a leader must be able to speak also about the difficult things and call thing a thing.

Brené Brown addressed these same themes. She too emphasized the importance of courage as part of successful and modern leadership. According to her, a courageous leader is capable of having difficult discussions, handling feelings and fears, in addition to recovering from failures quickly. But with courage comes vulnerability – in fact, she said that one can’t be courageous until they are vulnerable. Being vulnerable is the ability of tolerating uncertainty as well as revealing and handling emotions.

In our book club meeting, we had two books to discuss about: “Brave New Work” by Aaron Dignan and (direct translation of the Finnish version) “Being a leader in the heart of change” by Hille Korhonen and Tytti Bergman. Discussions were circling around the fact that change comes from people doing concrete actions and how big a role the leadership skills of line managers play in making change successful. Changes are not only done by having people as the target but more importantly: together with them, trusting them, and by learning together. Also Korhonen and Bergman emphasize that leaders must show that they are authentic, unperfect and humane without needing to have all the answers to everything – those are found in the organization, if you are listening to it. A leader’s job is to show the vision and direction and put the strategy into concrete words.

People-driven change

To summarize the modern and humane change leadership into a few key points:

  1. Face people genuinely, even in difficult change situations – by listening, observing and learning together
  2. Call thing a thing. If you don’t know something, admit it. A leader does not need to have all the answers ready
  3. Show the organization a clear direction, no matter how unclear or difficult the change might seem. Put the strategy into concrete words
  4. Even the biggest changes start from small acts. The importance is to start somewhere

In a humane, modern and people-driven change leadership, organizations are not seen as mechanical and controllable “machines” but as living organisms, which can develop and change in sometimes surprising ways. People are not just difficult pieces of a board game, manipulated to work in a different way. No, they are active doers, who are excited to change – once they have been given the opportunity and they are trusted.

People-driven change is in the core of what we at CCEA do and how we approach changes. Read more about it in the Leading in Change handbook.