Leadership and management thinking and practice have drastically shifted. We're seeing more than ever that, to fully motivate, engage, and bring out the best in people, unconventional bosses that "walk-the-talk" of leadership are instilling more human value at work and developing more human-centered workplaces for competitive advantage.
These innovative management practices that appeal to the hearts and minds of employees--whatever generation--are actually common sense, but not common practice.
To continue to challenge our now obsolete beliefs and stereotypes about work and management, we can start looking at some best-in-class examples of how human leaders truly walk their talk.
1. They help people achieve their goals.
Kyle Slager, CEO of San Diego-based Raken, the top-rated daily reporting app and field management software for the construction industry, told me he bases his "holistic" leadership philosophy by helping his employees achieve their personal goals as much as their professional goals.
"One of the things we've done to formalize this is make it part of our review process. For example, we'll set personal goals for the year the same way we would professional goals, and we do everything we can to help each other achieve those goals," says Slager.
2. They give people freedom and autonomy.
Gallup just released a report in which it boldly declared "the end of the traditional manager"-- a wake-up call to companies still operating by command-and-control standards of decades past.
In the report, Gallup revealed that today's decentralized firms are defined by flexible workspaces and flexible work time. The evidence presented is clear that walk-the-talk managers who provide their workers with more autonomy will increase their performance.
But there's a critical balance, which Gallup points out: "Employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can't offer autonomy and disappear."
3. They fiercely defend their company's values.
Take Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, as a clear example of a walk-the-talk leader. After severing ties with the National Rifle Association for their "divisive rhetoric" stemming from the Parkland, Florida, high school shootings that killed seventeen people, Bastian made his decision based on Delta's values over politics. He said, "At Delta, our values are everything. It's the culture of the company. It allows us to be who we are."
Many stipulate Bastian's choice to punt the NRA was politically-motivated, but it was a socially-conscious business choice nonetheless. "I really know the heartbeat of our company, I believe, and when you see something that is so polar opposite to what you believe you're required to speak. And our employees expect us to speak," said Bastian.
4. They improve the lives of their people.
Over the years, I've been documenting evidence that suggests that the best leaders motivate, engage, and inspire people through actionable and practical love. This is demonstrated in how employees are treated and cared for by human-centered leaders, which has been proven to improve performance and lead to business outcomes.
It's easy to forget that leadership is about service and making those around you better -- this is how love manifests itself as a business value and transforms organizations.
To assess where you stand against the high measure of a walk-the-talk leader who loves his or her employees, there's one very powerful question you need to ask: What am I doing every day to improve the life of an employee in the workplace?
5. They listen more than they talk.
Ralf Jacob, Head of Digital Media Services, Oath (a Verizon-owned company), and a former Olympic diver, is a walk-the-talk executive who actively listens to his people more than he tells them what to do.
He told me in a compelling interview, "I've [created] what I call an 'open door, open ear' policy. I'm available to discuss anything with anyone -- whether a direct report or not -- and I actively practice listening more than I talk. It's not always easy to have this type of policy. It means that sometimes, I must place my own obligations on the back burner to ensure someone else has the space to freely express what's on their mind. But I wouldn't change it for the world. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about the team and business I lead that I never would have discovered otherwise."