People Centric leadership in the midst of Life Disruptions.

Everyone knows change is inevitable, but when it hits home, and our life is upended unexpectedly, the truism takes on an entirely new meaning. In this reality of Covid-19 pandemic, job losses, locust invasions, mental stress and political uncertainty, life has taken a completely “abnormal” or “new normal” is you like. While there are many tactics for “surviving” the sometimes traumatic effects of unforeseen change, there is a more courageous option than merely minimizing the downside of disruption.

Choose it before it chooses you. Because life itself is unpredictable, personal disruption is inevitable. Once you accept this fact, you’ve taken the first step toward keeping your head above water during the next crisis. But simply surviving isn’t enough to succeed. By learning to embrace disruption, you can harness it as a tool for personal and organizational growth

There is a good news article on Harvard Business Review about managing those whose lives have been upended, written by the author of six New York Times best-sellers, Bruce Feiler. In it, he makes the distinction between “voluntary” disruptions in one’s life — say, buying a home or having a child — and “involuntary” disruptions — say, sadly, the loss of a parent, a pet, a job, etc.

It’s worth noting that while many managers and organizational leaders can handle disruption around product and process (although not all can do it well), very few can handle disruption around personal issues, be it their own or their teams. I actually once saw someone get divorced after 20 years; when he returned to work, his manager gave him a Ksh 50,000 gift cash and that was basically it.

I doubt that the new divorcee really wanted to run through walls for that manager after he got his coffee or whiskey with the cash, right? And if you want to be a transformative leader, not just a transactional one, you need to get good at the people side of all this. It is messy and confusing and oftentimes awkward, but if you can’t do that side, you will struggle with real growth and gains around your business and yourself.

This people-centric transformative leadership side is one thing (one big thing)

What is People-Centric Leadership?

People-centric leadership creates a culture where both employees and leaders are more fulfilled and more fully engaged. Leaders see employees as people, not cogs in the machine or lines on a spreadsheet, and they make decisions with this in mind. They also see employees for more than just the work they do. This includes considering their mental health, their situation at home, and other factors that play a role in their overall well-being.

People-centric leaders also want to know what each employee cares most about. One of the most important things to consider is that meaningfulness is highly individual. What matters to one person might not be a significant motivator for another. For this reason, organizations can’t create a blanket purpose and expect it to resonate with everybody. While the company might have specific goals that resonate with some people, it’s up to leaders to identify the work that makes each individual light up, and to highlight the purpose behind each task.

When employees find themselves asking, “What’s the point of this?” it’s a sign that they are not finding the meaning in what they are doing. People-centric leaders know how to spot this warning sign and work with employees to demonstrate how their work has meaning.

Published by Aquinius Mung'atia

Aquinius Mung’atia is the Head of Projects at Aga Khan Hospital, Mombasa, and was previously the General Manager of Muthaiga Golf Club and Sigona Golf Clubs, respectively. He is an expert in Strategic Management with over 20 years of experience in both hospitality and healthcare Industry. My Career path boast of extensive training and consultancy experience in Hospitality Industry, Hospital Support Services and Operations, Healthcare Projects and Facility Management, among others. The author is currently a PhD student in Business Administration and holder of MBA in strategic Management (University of Nairobi) and a 1st class honors degree in Hotel and Institution Management (Maseno University) Aquinius is also a healthcare insight and a data analytic enthusiast. Follow him on or Facebook Page

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