What skills does a leader need to succeed? A good starting place is adopting a more people-oriented leadership style. In an interview with Medium, Garry Ridge, the chairman and CEO of WD-40, a company with a 93 percent engagement rate, explains:
“The first thing that comes to mind is understanding empathy.
Know how to be emotionally intelligent.
Know how to continue to learn.
Know how to be open.
Learn to be more adaptive . . .
We have to empower, engage, and be accountable ourselves as leaders and hold people accountable.
Leadership is not about being in charge; leadership is about taking care of people in your charge . . .
66% of people don’t really get engaged in their work. And if you can unleash that . . . how do you do that? That’s the human side.”
To be successful as a leader, you have to be people-oriented. This doesn’t mean you’re a doormat: it’s quite the contrary. Being people-oriented allows you to lead from the front. By taking care of your team, serving them, and motivating them to fulfill goals greater than themselves, you position yourself as an influential figure your employees want to listen to, develop trust with, and equally serve.
Keep job satisfaction, engagement rates, employee retention levels, and profitability high by:
- Learning what a people-oriented company is.
- Discovering how being a people-oriented leader is different from being a task-oriented leader.
- Receiving tips on becoming a more people-oriented executive or manager.
What is a People-Oriented Company?
A people-oriented company is one where leaders prioritize developing strong interpersonal relationships with employees. Above all, executives, managers, and human resources personnel create a business culture where people feel valued, safe, appreciated, and inspired. At these businesses, the focus isn’t task-driving—it’s driving a positive impact in the lives of customers and employees alike.
People-oriented leaders practice and develop soft skills centered on improving human connections such as:
- Conflict management
- Open communication
- Radical candor
- Employee appreciation
- Emotional intelligence
- Active listening
Being Task-Oriented vs. People-Oriented
Task-oriented leadership is vastly different than people-oriented leadership. For instance, out of all the leadership styles, it is most similar to the authoritarian style since the people using it are more focused on being in control and driving results from subordinates. This type of behavior is reflected in Elon Musk’s leadership style, as he is well-known for focusing less on relationship-building and more on driving progress toward his vision.
On the other hand, people-oriented leadership is the opposite. While a CEO of a people-oriented company might be focused on goal achievement, the well-being, happiness, and fulfillment of others exceed any of the company’s metrics. A great example of a people-oriented leader is Alexander Enoch, founder of Robotical. In a viral LinkedIn post, his employee, Natalya Ratner, shares that after she told her HR manager she received a breast cancer diagnosis, Enoch called her. During their talk, he let her know the business would cover her salary throughout her chemo treatment. He said the offer remained, even if she couldn’t work at all. When she asked if the business could afford that, he responded, “Health always comes first, and we’re happy to be flexible around your needs here. We care more about you than money, and having your full salary will take away at least a little of the stress.”
Aside from these traits, learn more about the pros and cons of task-oriented leadership vs. people-oriented below.
- Collaborate to increase productivity and results.
- Create a company culture where outcomes and achieving metrics are the measure of success.
- Are good at managing people.
- Drive their team members to reach KPIs, OKRs, and other performance metrics.
- Find top value in developing processes, systems, and strategies that produce desired outcomes and results.
- Delves out punishments and reprimands when tasks are not completed in their specific timeframe.
- Require employee supervision and checking work after tasks are completed. They are often perceived as a micromanager.
- Bring their teams together to foster a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
- Cultivate a business culture based on the organization’s core values, which determines collective and individual success.
- Are great at leading people.
- Inspire, motivate, support, and grow healthy relationships with their employees.
- Place emphasis on the development of interpersonal skills and leadership qualities that help them better serve their team.
- Show more concern for the employee, rather than the work they finish.
- Demonstrate flexibility and adaptability, leading in a way that best suits each individual on the team’s needs.
How to Increase People-Oriented Leadership Skills
As Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, once said, “No matter what your line of work, even if it’s in one of the technical professions, your degree of success depends on your ability to interact effectively with other people.”
Having a people-oriented approach is much more effective for those in a leadership role because it is a leader’s job to inspire, motivate, and serve. This way of leading will produce far better results than making employees feel like they’re just a cog in the machine. To avoid one of the top business mistakes, learn more about increasing your people-oriented leadership skills below.
1. Build Trusting Relationships with Your Employees
“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.”Harold Macmillian
Like Stephen Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Being a task-driven micromanager communicates a clear message: You don’t trust your team to do their jobs.
When businesses grow, many entrepreneurs and founders struggle to let go of the tasks they were once responsible for. They might hold the limiting belief that no one can do this work better than them, which causes them to continue working in the business rather than on it.
To be a people-oriented leader, you have to give trust to get trust. This is because trust is the currency of all great relationships, including those you have with people at work. Because leaders set the pace of an organization, they can’t afford to be stingy with trust. When they are, a poor work culture develops—one that’s rooted in fear, poor communication, superficial relationships, and low job satisfaction.
To gain more trust:
- Take on the servant leadership approach. Grow trust by stepping up and taking care of your team’s needs above all else.
- Provide employees with the training and resources they need when delegating out tasks and responsibilities. When you train someone to do the task, you feel confident they can do it excellently.
- Let your team know you’re open to creativity and new ideas for streamlining work.
- Listen to others and serve humbly.
- Support employees and reach out for assistance as needed. Act as a bolster when they’re going through tough times, stressed, or have too much on their plate. This helps prevent burnout, absenteeism, and job abandonment.
2. Give Employee Recognition in a Person’s Appreciation Language
“Keep your eyes open and try to catch people in your company doing something right, then praise them for it.”Tom Hopkins
A study published by SHRM found 91 percent of human resources professionals believe employee recognition and rewards programs contribute to better employee retention rates. Yet, this doesn’t mean providing a simple “thanks” every now and then. People-oriented leaders go above and beyond to make how they appreciate people meaningful and memorable.
Provide intentionally great praise by:
- Using someone’s appreciation language. Not everyone enjoys being thanked the same way. For example, some people prefer words of affirmation, while others like small gifts.
- Having your team take the appreciation languages test so you know the best way to show each person gratitude.
- Vocalizing employees’ demonstrations of your company’s core values.
- Providing new leadership opportunities, performance-based raises, and rewards for those that consistently add value to the business.
- Communicating on a weekly basis what your employees are doing right, how they’re achieving wins that drive the business forward, and why you appreciate them.
3. Coach People on Their Strengths and Weaknesses
“Great leaders can see the greatness in others when they can’t see it themselves and lead them to their highest potential they don’t even know.”Roy T. BennetT
As a people-oriented leader, it’s your responsibility to communicate and guide others toward fulfilling their greatest potential. Furthermore, this requires practicing strengths-based leadership, a leadership style where a person speaks to employees’ strengths and positions them to drive impact with their unique gifts and talents.
To do this:
- Understand that there are different strengths: executing, influencing, relationship-building, and strategic thinking.
- Hire to strike a balance of strengths. You don’t want 12 strategic thinkers on your team. Look for the gaps and hire individuals who fill them.
- Assess each individual’s strengths and give them responsibilities and roles where they’ll add the most value.
- Be communicative about what each person’s strengths are. As a leader, you want to influence your team to step even deeper into their purpose and meaning.
In addition to this, leaders also practice radical candor and provide honest, transparent feedback that helps their team members grow. As Kim Malone Scott writes in Radical Candor, “The best way to keep superstars happy is to challenge them and make sure they are constantly learning.” For instance, this might look like being truthful regarding weaknesses, discussing why the quality of someone’s work is declining, or suggesting helpful ways to improve their performance.
4. Invite Team Members to Collaborate with You
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Those under your care don’t want a dictator forcing them to do meaningless work. However, they do want someone who invites them to collaborate and create something incredible together. Undoubtedly, this is what keeps people feeling like their contributions are making a real difference in achieving a greater vision of the future.
Cultivate a collaborative business culture by:
- Adopting a democratic leadership style where you allow each person on the team to have an equal voice during the decision-making process.
- Incorporating your team members’ thoughts, suggestions, and ideas, so they know you take them seriously.
- Guiding your team to brainstorm and problem-solve together.
- Practicing collaborative leadership and distributing power throughout the organization, rather than commanding from the top at all times.
- Working on KPIs and OKRs with each individual, rather than providing a list of demands.
5. Increase Your Communication Skills
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”James Humes
Being a great communicator is crucial to being people-oriented, as great communication creates the development of strong relationships. But without open lines of communication, conflict, resentment, and disengagement begin forming between leaders and their followers.
With remote work becoming the new status quo, this might sound easier said than done. However, research from McKinsey & Company found improved communication through social technologies (social networks and digital communication tools such as Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams) increased employee productivity up to 25 percent.
Other communication tips include:
- Being an active listener who also makes it a point to understand what others are saying.
- Asking engaging or clarifying questions after a person speaks.
- Establishing open communication with employees. This might look like having an open-door policy, expressing excitement over wins, and discussing areas requiring more progress.
- Practicing empathetic leadership when an employee comes to you with a problem or concern. As such, seek to imagine or feel their emotions before reacting to what they’re saying.
- Increasing your emotional intelligence, which helps you become a better communicator. Without EI, a leader will fail to understand how to connect with others, contributing to poor work relationships.
Discover more about how to grow emotional intelligence in the workplace.
People-Oriented Leadership Focuses on What Matters Most: People
People-oriented leaders are servant leaders who put people first: customers, employees, and those within their communities. As the world goes digital, this type of leadership is needed now more than ever. Cigna’s report on loneliness in the workplace found:
- “52 percent of employees feel sometimes or always alone.”
- “48 percent feel isolated from others.”
- “61 percent feel their interests and ideas aren’t shared by others.”
The company’s research also found that those who were lonely were also two times more likely to quit their jobs.
Leaders who develop people-oriented skills that help them cultivate great relationships in the workplace combat these feelings of loneliness and isolation.
It isn’t the pay, the freedom, or the perks that keep A-players at your business.
It’s the connection.
When you put people first, you won’t have a problem attracting and retaining top talent.
Find out more about how to become a great leader with this next article: