What is Humanistic leadership?

Since I developed the Humanistic Leadership model in 2015, I have been seeing more evidence of humanistic leadership in organizations.

Humanistic leadership is a mindset versus a set of theories. In my view, this is what separates humanistic leadership from many other theories of leadership. Humanistic leadership encourages self-leadership, self-awareness, and self-actualization. The humanistic organization is flexible and transparent with communication built on trust. The humanistic organization emphasizes the humane and meaningful work culture in which people can thrive. The humanistic organization is supportive, inclusive, and appreciative. In a humanistic organization coaching is used as a leading approach of helping people to develop. The humanistic organization encourages people to self-express and to lead themselves. Finally, the humanistic leadership organization demonstrates a sincere interest in those who work there.

A crisis will bring out Humanistic leadership.

The Covid-19 crisis has provided a showcase of excellent and poor examples of humanistic leadership. This article will only discuss the good examples of humanistic leadership because these are the companies, I think, we should learn from. It is during a crisis when companies show their actual values of people over profit. And, of course, the opposite is true. It is much easier to be a humanistic leader during good times than during difficult times. When a company is making money, customers are happy with their products, and sales are moving quickly off the shelves, it is easy to throw in a little bit of humanistic leadership. But when products are not selling, customers have more significant priorities, and society is threatened.  During Covid-19, we see more humanistic approaches in companies emerge.

Examples of Humanistic leadership during Covid-19

While 2020 will always be a year remembered by the pandemic, I am hopeful that it will also be a time when the humanistic approach in organizations became more accepted.

Here are some good examples of humanistic leadership during the pandemic:

Lamborghini, the famous fast car company, stopped production to produce facemasks and shields to support local hospitals in Bologna, Italy.

Samsung was one of the first firms to offer work from home for its employees when the virus first hit South Korea in the early stages of the pandemic. It also, immediately sent emergency kits with instant food, water, toilet paper, and disinfectant wipes home with their employees.

Pangonglai, a small market in Henan, China, decided to sell all vegetables at cost cause of the supplies shortage. It also made compensation available up to $30,000 per family who lost family members to Covid-19. These companies didn’t have to do this, but they did because they had a true humanistic spirit.

The Company Store Corporation donated their cotton sheets to make masks and other supplies.

Sweetgreen, a chain restaurant, donated over 100,000 meals to over 100 hospitals in the US.

Starbucks, always a leader in their local communities, closed all their shops for some time and gave all employees catastrophe pay and continued all benefits.

Long criticized Walmart for their employee policies, hired 200,000  temporary workers, and gave them a bonus during difficult times.

The food company Bon Appétit sent home all of their employees in the early stages of the pandemic, in February, and made sure everyone got paid and communicated frequently to all employees.

Microsoft allowed their employees to work from home and gave three months of paid leave to all employees who had children affected by school closures. 

Manchester United, the famous soccer team, raised over $20 million and gave 3 million meals away to vulnerable people in the UK.

Ally, the financial services company, provided free access to mental health services.

The Four Seasons Hotel in New York opened its doors for free to medical workers on the front line.

Apple decided to continue paying all workers even though they closed all of their stores for a long time.

Costco and Trader Joe’s were the first companies to adjust store hours to accommodate the elderly population and those with immune-compromised issues to shop in safer environment. 

Roommate hotels in Spain gave free rooms to healthcare workers and used 3D printers to make protective masks. 

A small credit union called BECU suspended all transaction fees deferring payments and credit cards and loans and offered free one-on-one counseling in addition to providing over $500,000 to local community funds.

L’Oreal, the makeup company, produced hand sanitizers for local hospitals. 

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban reimbursed all company employees who bought lunch and coffee at local independent shops.

The Calm online app company decided to give the public free resources to assist with upset nerves.

LVNH, a French company that owns high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton, used their machines to produce masks. 

These are just a few examples of companies from around the world which have done amazing things in humanistic ways throughout this pandemic. We should learn from their humanistic approaches.

What can we learn from these humanistic leaders?

Humanistic leadership is not a fad or a trend, or even a new leadership theory. As I said earlier, it is a mindset to do the right thing if you want to be kind to each other and be sustainable in the long term. I am hopeful that these examples are, in fact, the trend that other organizations will start to copy and deploy in a post-pandemic environment.

The way forward in a post-Covid-19 world

Throughout every crisis in history, there are lessons to be learned. I am hopeful that the lessons of humanistic leadership will be understood and remembered from this crisis. This is required for our sustainability and our day-to-day living if we want to live in a calmer, kinder, warmer, friendlier and more accepting world with each other.