The Human Side of Management: Advanced Leadership Trends

Originally Featured in Federal Management Journal

The new millenium manager has two “human side” issues to confront:

  • His/her basic belief about human nature – people are trustworthy or not trustworthy
  • His/her basic level of self-acceptance

The view we hold of human nature may well determine our relevance or obsolescence as managers in the 21st century. Developing human capital viewing the employee as a whole person, not simply as a work unit. The predominant management philosophy taking hold today. And the more positive our image of the average employee, the more likely we are to be effective leaders.

Yet there is a further challenge that begins within each one of us. It is our basic acceptance of ourselves – the core condition from which true leadership capabilities develop.

Historical Stages of Management

Management has developed along a three-stage path. Its first structure was strictly hierarchical. Early industry was structured along primarily military guidelines. Factories functioned with a high degree of centralized control and expected only basic robotic responses from workers. In fact, at that time, the church, the military, and industry saw little value in individual initiative.

Developing human capital – viewing the employee as a whole person, not simply a work unit – is the predominant management philosophy taking hold today.

The church was out to save souls. It felt it had the correct formula to do so. All that was needed was adherence from the faithful. The military wanted to defend property and save lives. Central command knew and directed the “right moves.” What was required was unerring execution in the field. And textile mills wanted everyone in place continually and on time so that production would go forward with every bobbin rolling. The basic perception of the faithful, the soldiers, and the employees was of a minion who would accept and fulfill orders with a minimum of individual discretion.

The historical circumstances that made this system workable included a lower level of education for the masses, and a sense among them of dependence on those who “knew better.” If management spoke, there was willing acceptance from followers.

Transitional Management

Post World War II management began to offer some opportunities for individual initiative among employees, albeit grudgingly and often awkwardly. This marked a transitional stage. The military command experience was a massive and general role model during this era, and influenced peacetime managers. Many had had their first taste of formal management in the service. Often, they recreated battlefield urgency and crisis management to rekindle the excitement of their earlier commands. However, without the life-threatening consequences of attack from an enemy, continuing managerial effectiveness required loyalty and general acceptance from employees, or it engendered subtle resistance.

Transitional managers meant well in attempting to bring their experience from management training into the organization. They truly wanted to become more “Theory Y” to “manage by objectives,” to be more participative. In most causes their commitment to change outran their understanding and skill to implement participative management. So, in offering employees the possibility of taking more initiative and having more decision-making authority, many managers only appeared to dupe employees, and created less receptivity the next time participative management was proposed.

Some managers, again well-meaning, attempted to provide a high level of inclusion and affiliation for their employees. Their door was always open, and for a time, subordinates felt warm and fuzzy. However, these “Godfather” managers neglected to establish a minimal structure upon which subordinates could gauge their performance and outcomes. This led to great dependence on the manager, who held sometimes whimsical standards.

The establishment of a psychologically “safe” climate is essential in order to glean maximum creativity, communication and productivity.

Management Structure: A Basic Need

Most organizations are still in need of good basic-management practices. Like a jazz combo that requires a basic beat from the drummer, organizations require a basic structure that includes their mission, goals, objectives, agreements, and standards before they can begin to improvise. Even if there is a high degree of shared responsibility and trust, there still needs to be a basic-structure as to, depend on or fall back on.

Organic Management: Current and Future Stage

Some units or organizations experience a high energy state referred to as the flow state, as optimal or peak performance. It is purposeful: fluid, flexible and focused. Employees act intrapreneurially, taking initiative in programs and decision-making and maintaining networks.

The line of authority is replaced by a “line of response,” which provides easy and quick access to resources such as current information, policy perspectives and contracts. There is no ruling elite. Development of human capital is the highest priority. And the establishment of a psychologically safe climate is essential in order to glean maximum creativity. Communication, innovation, initiative and productivity from all employees. Each employee may require situational leadership in some areas, yet each employee benefits from an organizational climate befitting the “gold collar employee.”

New Purpose: Organizational Transfunction

In developing human capital, organizations turn their attention to enriching and empowering the employee so that he/she transforms, i. e. faces his/her fears and moves through them. In moving through fears, the employee-releases more energy that can be directed toward results. The manager, meanwhile, practices a judicious mix of support and challenge to the employee as a way of being “of service” to that employee.

This open, explicit approach to growing human beings can further our evolution as a people, our revolution as a nation, and provide energy and creativity that will make us competitive.

But the major change is that the organization no longer sees its purpose as producing widgits or gastros. or of delivering a particular service. The main purpose of the organization is to provide the optimal environment and climate in which human beings can transform. This is the transfunction, ie, a change in the basic function of the organization from producing “X,” to transforming its employees. This approach moves from the deeper purpose of life and work and accesses deeper reserves of energy. which are more clearly focused and directed, more soul refreshing.

Organizations ensure the outcomes for which they were created, whether productivity, or service, by first establishing a clear set of goals. They then must hire employees who take initiative and share the responsibility for completing the tasks required for product or service outcomes.

Challenge to Managers Who Would Lead. Managers who would lead in this type of endeavor enter into the organization with a special challenge to self-develop. They choose to be role models, to stretch and challenge themselves, to mature beyond where even their role models have shown the way. The position implies a commitment to grow, evolve and deepen oneself. . . to be one of a kind. Those who find that they are moving in consort with their deeper purpose provide a guiding light for others.

This open, explicit approach to growing human beings can further our evolution as a people, our revolution as a nation, and provide the energy and creativity that will make us more competitive.

So what is this deep personal reserve of purpose and energy that can be drawn upon while propelling us into the 21st century?

Each of us has had moments of supreme aliveness on and off the job. Each of us has felt a sense of exhilaration, pride, confidence, and peace which seemed a singular occurrence. We felt privileged to feel that way, yet did not think it possible to recreate that feeling at will. Even when we might have tried to relive it or recreate the conditions that brought it about, we fell short. However, this feeling can come about more frequently than Haley’s comet, and we can choose to have it. Or, put another way we can choose to experience ourselves as thriving more of the time.

Find within yourself a sense of rising inspiration. Recall a time when you were truly on beam and thriving… at your very best. You were moved, felt a swelling within your chest, found a peacefulness, serenity and satisfaction within. The circumstances are not as important as the memory of the feeling. With the feeling comes a sense of inner connected-ness that is possible to sustain and maintain over time.

Managers have only to review the practices at their workplace that are based essentially on fear or motivated by survival to understand the effects of this mentality.

Some of us live a lifetime with only fleeting moments when we feel this way. Each time we do feel it. there is a sense of sadness that follows because we do not know how to sustain ourselves in that thriving sensation. For most of us there is a “Miller Time” quality to enjoyment. You have to earn it after your day is done. Some of us are driven to a lifetime in quest of this feeling and are always waiting for “when I go on vacation, this weekend, when I retire, when this project is completed… when the budget gets restored to prior levels. “The truth is that we can function with this amount of connected-ness and good feeling on the job, or any time in spite of our circumstances. We simply have to establish that contact and be well within ourselves. We need to develop a peaceful core.

What Blocks Us?

Four basic blocks to enlightened management are:

  1. Our history of civilization mired in a “survival” mentality
  2. A basic disbelief in human nature
  3. A continuing rejection of oneself
  4. Success anxiety

Each of these blocks also constitutes a major core conflict, a stressor for each person, and an energy drain within each one of us.

The Survival Mentality. Managers have only to review the practices at their workplace that are based essentially on fear or motivated by survival to understand the effects of this mentality. These include the traumas that sweep the department with rumors of budget cuts, fearful views of impending doom from the top boss who is viewed as judgmental and potentially punitive.

The major motive throughout history, the major driving force until now has been “lasting,” just going on living, delaying death, survival. And a quick review of our national defense budget would underline that present leadership is not yet moving us beyond the survival mentality as a motivator, but rather uses fear to manipulate public response.

Disbelief. Managers who would lead others need to know the extent to which they distrust their own nature This distrust is likely to interfere with their own functioning, especially their willingness to utilize their intuition and to make decisions with authority and without great stress. Distrust is also likely to create subtle chronic strain in our work with others. If you do not trust human nature in general, that reflects on how you view yourself and how you work with others. Checks, project reviews, micro-management, and surveillance techniques may illustrate distrust within a given organization.

Self-rejection. For employees, the performance evaluation and supervisory conferences are pivotal moments in the work year. For the employee who confuses being personnel with being a person, the evaluation can pose a major threat to self image. Since most people are not directly self-accepting, but rather depend on some external source, relationship, recognition and the like to make them feel good about themselves, feedback and evaluations are often more anxiety-provoking than growth promoting and enhancing.

Since most people are not directly self-accepting, but rather depend on some external source to make them feel good about themselves, evaluations are often anxiety-provoking.

Success anxiety. While the American Dream speaks of attaining success, the prospect is terrifying for the vast majority. In failing, one can control the outcome continually, but success may imply giving up control and taking what comes, riding the crest of a wave, no longer being a victim. That is scary. And some 95% of the workforce subtly sabotage their own best efforts and outcomes.

To deal with each and every one of these issues, the manager-who-would-lead needs to first deal with self. He or she has to be willing to confront the conflicts, stressors and energy drains within, and to begin the process and transition beyond them. Each can move at his her own rate and pace. There is still time. But. staying put only leads to obsolescence.

Commit, and Talk Your Walk

While ideally each manager would become a model of thriving competence, one is not required to complete this transition, or even necessarily to be ahead of his or her employees in achieving self-acceptance. Managers don’t have to “walk their talk” or be the “living masters” of these issues, for this transition is lifelong. They must, however. be committed at some level that is evident to others, and have the humor and humility to make changes, share the road with employees, and adapt. This requires clear awareness of the four truly core issues confronting all employees, and consequently their organization. Each one of these issues holds direct implications for what future leadership must confront and surpass.

Future leadership requires a personal commitment to get beyond these blocks to being “on beam” and thriving. These are the steps and the points on the horizon that each person needs to determine, “expect” and choose in order to begin the transition.

Toward a Thrival Mentality. The transition involves moving from constrictive fear to love and openness, from deprivation, desperation and hunger to abundance and satisfaction, from soap opera drama to effectiveness, from organized hysteria to groundedness. The survival mentality permeates and is at the core of most of our daily practices.

While ideally each manager would become model of thriving competence, one is not required to complete this transition, or even to be ahead of his/her employees in achieving self-acceptance.

We need to note those practices in order to become aware of them and then systematically transform them from a fear and desperation base, to a love and fulfillment base.

(Of course, we are dealing with ingrained habits and beliefs that do not change easily. In fact, the reader ought to be feeling some resistance to these items by now. Pay special attention to those that you most adamantly deny. That may be your place of major growth.)

Moving From Distrust to “Skilled” Trust. Once we realize our daily interdependence on the basic trustworthiness of each person, whether while driving in traffic, or while taking a drink of water (which depends on the responsible acts of literally thousands to bring water from the source to your lips, including pipes, treatment, storage tank, plumbing, container, glass); we can relax somewhat.

Future leadership requires a personal commitment to get beyond these blocks to being “on beam” and thriving.

Distrust is replaced by “skilled trust.” Just as you do not hand your teenager the keys to the car without some formal training, you exercise skilled trust with employees in granting responsibility in increments. “Skilled” is a key word for this transition when dealing with others, for we have been raised in Theory “X” circumstances and have become accustomed to a distrust-based response. With skill, meanwhile, we can monitor and manage the transition of others into increased trustworthiness.

For ourselves, we need to become aware of our inner glimmers, inklings, and pulsations; to be more aware of our energies. And we need to practice increasing our trust in ourselves. Distrust of human nature is the core belief that results in a social order based on disbelief. To weed out this practice and instill trust in our employees, we must ourselves come to grips with our own trust levels.

Toward Direct Self-Acceptance. The most basic and essential act in making the transition is that of providing oneself with unconditional and unqualified direct self acceptance. Rather than parceling out approval of yourself to numerous circumstances and judges, none of which you control, take full responsibility for accepting yourself and feel the surge of energy that results. Self-acceptance moves beyond self-esteem, and is far more basic.

From Self-sabotage to Self-Care. The more sensitive and intelligent an individual, the more subtly he she can commit self-sabotage without anyone else knowing it. Each of us can confront self-defeating habits, practices and patterns through keeping ajournal, and actively taking responsibility for self-care. Managers need to confront their own fears of success, so they can counsel and support their staff about overcoming their own fears of success.

At a time of major cultural change in the society at large, it is essential that the leader be aware of damaging and debilitating practices within an organization that result from the influence of the larger culture. Uprooting and replacing these practices with challenging, effective. efficient and growth-enhancing practices, criteria and values directs and applies energy and human capital toward creativity and positive results.

Putting the emphasis on maturing, self-reliance, initiative and transformation of the individual from survival to thrival will lead to increases in energy and productivity.

Adjustments are accomplished at all levels, but are first and most basically accomplished with and within the individual employee the basic building block of the organization.


The 21st Century organization will benefit greatly by helping employees to thrive. Putting the emphasis on emotional maturity, self-reliance, initiative and transforming the individual mentality and aspiration from survival to thrival will lead to huge increases in energy, creativity and productivity. Self-motivated employees will experience sheer joy and satisfaction on the job, engage in more genuine sharing with other employees and management, and adopt an expanded concern for the entire organization. Everyone wins! And thriving is the key.

To achieve a thriving work environment, managers must first face the major issues in their lives. Only then can they create a psychologically safe work climate, and provide purposeful direction through which their employees can achieve effective results.