“Are You A Human” is the name of a company based in Detroit that designs technology to help ensure internet security. The question, though, is important for today’s leaders. We want to know our leaders are humans, too, capable of empathy and worthy of trust. I was thinking of this recently when President Obama released his summer playlist, giving us a light-hearted glimpse into his personal tastes in a humanizing way.
In describing leadership, I once heard former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo say leaders can be “kind without being weak, and confident without being jerks.” Especially in today’s world of flagging confidence and deepening anxiety, leaders who exhibit compassion, humor, respect and caring can connect more deeply with stakeholders, build trust and effect positive change.
Leaders who show us their humanity can demonstrate great strength. When Sheryl Sandberg shared her personal story of grief after her husband’s sudden death in a Facebook essay, we shared her loss and admired her courage in saying such hard things out loud. This commencement season brought another powerful example: Former Google super brain Jeff Huber told the University of Illinois class of 2016 the story of his beloved wife Laura, who had died of cancer at age 46 just six months before.
“Be grateful for those who bring love into your life,” he said simply.
Huber used his personal experience to model what it means to live a purposeful life. Now he is the CEO of a company called Grail, designing a blood test to detect cancer while early and still treatable. He urged the graduates to “find a better way.” In sharing his personal story, he showed us how to do it.