I found myself thinking about this specific question: is there a chance for people who lead with humanity? Is there an ROI for being human? I didn’t know the answer to these questions until recently.
Four months ago I quit my job because it had become unfulfilling and boring and I wanted to live in a way that was important to me. I found myself sitting behind a desk in the office deleting numbers for eight hours and spending time in long meetings where all we did was talk about the same topics. On the bright side, it was position with a lot influence that I leveraged to motivate and inspire the employees and increase sales. My competitive advantage is that I was a creative leader who invented interesting tasks to hide all the meaningless things underneath.
I tried to convince myself that I was delusional until I stumbled on this podcast interview with Seth Godin. During the interview, Seth said something that will stick with me forever: “If this is what I have to do to get where I want to go, I want to go somewhere else.” It made me think a lot about my life. Do I have to continue to go to these meetings? Do I have to be the smartest or stupidest in the room by standing up for things that almost no one else believes in? The last straw that forced me to quit was a Tim Ferris’ podcast episode called Vagabonding. After listening to it I felt ready to share my gifts with the world. To fail. To eat dust. And I was prepared to not let my fear interfere. I reminded myself of a Theodore Roosevelt quotation then–I wanted to be the man in the arena.
Within the months after quitting I launched my first venture, TK, a t-shirt collection of motivational sayings deeply rooted into Haiti’s culture. I had this idea for the past three years. Although I wanted to launch it I was still trying to figure out my target market and I was asking myself : How am I going get my product to them? Who is “them”? But my niche was right in front of my eyes all of the time. It was the people I lead where used to work.
Trying to get the momentum going around the Christmas shopping season, I sent my invitation two days before the launch and many of my former coworkers came to buy the t-shirts. Without any complaints–it was amazing. The success of TK made me think of something: being human has a real ROI. These people came to support me not because I had the greatest product of all time (while this one of the most innovative ideas in this specific market, the printing quality was not the best). They came to purchase from me because we had built an emotional connection.
Being a fucking human with emotions and flaws pays off. I am not talking about buying or manipulating people to find appreciation or influence. I am talking about being able to support, critique and push others in a humanly way. Leading with humanity is not about treating people like crap nor pawns. It’s about understanding people’s stories and aspirations with care. As the saying goes: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
We have forgotten how to look beyond what we see so we define people based on their clothes, their resume, their sentences, their cars–without any proper understanding of their beliefs. We labeled them because it easier to batch people while the reality is that they all are unique. Being human takes time and each small action that comes from your soul counts to your followers and your fans. This is a new era and I think being human is a skill we should all learn.
Hey my friend, being a jerk cannot get you too far–this is a short term game that you will lose sooner or later. Yes you are going to fucking lose if you are unable to open yourself to the ones you lead. Artificial intelligence will soon replace your formula skills and Google has already disrupt your factual memory. I am sorry, the world is changing my friend, and the machine will replace you if all you do is simply count numbers.