Lead Like a Human, Not a Manager

In today’s fast-paced world of business is it possible to bring humanity back to leadership? A new book backed by research and co-authored by a Harvard Business Review contributor aims to answer that question for you.

In The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results, authors Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter offer a simple, yet compelling thesis for what makes a strong leader: it all starts within. Although the premise isn’t new, what makes this leadership book fresh is the amount of research that went into backing up their claim that it’s the internal workings of a leader’s mind that drives their effectiveness.

Hougaard and Carter write that three core mental qualities–Mindfulness, Selflessness and Compassion– form the foundation upon which leadership effectiveness is built. The Mind of a Leader draws upon an extensive literature review of neuroscience, psychology and organizational theory, and assessments of over 35,000 leaders from over a hundred countries.

The book lays out its central theme very well: As human beings we are all driven by basic needs for meaning, happiness, human connectedness and a desire to contribute positively to society. When leaders respond to these human needs with mindfulness, selflessness and compassion, they set the stage for a more productive work environment where all people feel energized and valued for their contributions.

How The Mind of the Leader Was Born

I first learned of Hougaard’s work with mindfulness during his presentation at the 2016 WorkHuman conference. Since then, I’ve followed his research with interest. Along the way, I met his colleague Jacqueline Carter. Both work for Potential Project and have extensive backgrounds in organizational and leadership development.

I wondered how the writing team moved from the topic of “mindfulness” to a broader, three-pronged approach to leadership. I reached out to the authors and here’s what I learned:

For over the past decade, Hougaard and Carter, along with their colleagues at Potential Project, had been helping leaders and organizations enhance performance with mindfulness. In recent years, they noticed that as important as mindfulness is for leaders, it wasn’t enough. Through their interviews and research, Hougaard and Carter identified additional qualities as core to enabling greater engagement, creativity and performance.

Here’s how Carter sums up the three elements of their leadership model: “To be successful today, leaders must be mindful – being present and attentive to their people’s needs; selfless – to model cultures based on growth and learning instead of ego; and compassionate – to show their people they have their back.”

In the LinkedIn article, How Leaders Must Lead for a Hard Future, Hougaard puts it this way: In a rapidly changing world, with hard challenges coming our way, we need leaders with minds who can respond mindfully, with selfless confidence and wise compassion.

Practical Tips for Leading Yourself, Your People and Your Organization

One of the best things about this book is the authors take what some view as “soft” topics and give concrete examples of how these ideas play out with real-life leaders. Not only are the excellent examples from a wide selection of industries and companies, the Hougaard and Carter also offer instructional “training” sections and “quick tips” for each segment of the book.

My Recommendation for The Mind of the Leader

This book is well-written, flows logically and provides excellent real-life examples of how to employ the three “core mental attributes” in a business context. For those who respond well to visual depictions, each of the three key sections has a corresponding matrix to help the reader ground themself in the concept. Although this book is written for those in leadership positions, the “tips” and “practices” suggested would be helpful for anyone wanting to become a more well-rounded individual capable of dealing with life’s stresses.

To learn more about this book, visit the book’s page at Potential Project.   Hint: if you scroll down the page, there is a video presentation that Rasmus made at WorkHuman 2017. It’s an excellent overview of the three key mental attributes of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion.

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of the book for the purposes of writing this review. Some of the links are affiliate links. Please form your own opinion about the materials I review on my website. Just because I liked it, doesn’t mean that you will.

Leave a Reply