People First: The Only Way I Know

Have you ever gone through a time in your life, a season if you will, where you really have to ask yourself what kind of leader, what kind of partner or parent or friend you truly are? There are times when I question whether I am an effective enough leader, a caring enough friend, a wise enough parent. Sometimes I feel like I am doing everything wrong…but then, there are those times when I realize that the only way I know is more than enough.

So today, I want to share what I have been thinking about how we care for those we lead and love. What I believe and what I live is that people always come first. To be clear, I am not saying we abandon ourselves for the benefit of others. After all, we are people too. What I am saying is that the only way I know how to lead and to love is to put people first – before results, before paper, even before policies and profits. When we take care of the people, the rest always falls into place.

Often, this kind of leadership is known as Human-Centred Leadership, and it is a concept gaining a lot of traction in business, in education and in all kinds of organizations. When I was a Masters Student years ago, I was drawn to this idea that to lead most effectively, we have to build and maintain relationships first, and that the success of any organization or relationship is ultimately dependent upon the people involved and how we take care of those people, including ourselves. Human-centred leaders prioritize the needs, well-being, and growth of the individuals they work with, and they strive to create an environment where people can thrive.

In our workplaces, human-centred leadership means creating cultures that value employees as individuals and encourages collaboration and open communication. This kind of leadership recognizes that employees are not just cogs in a machine, but human beings with unique strengths, weaknesses, and perspectives. Human-centred leaders empower those they lead to use their talents to their fullest potential, and they provide the support and resources needed for success. In every workplace where I have been a teacher or a school leader, the ones that thrived have been the ones where people respect and care for one another, where the leader supports and appreciates the people who are in the trenches working with learners and where bringing our whole selves to work is not just tolerated, but is celebrated. This is the kind of leader I strive to be each day.

But human-centred leadership isn’t just important in the workplace – it’s also essential in our personal relationships. Whether we’re talking about romantic relationships, friendships, or family relationships, putting people first is the key to building healthy, long-lasting connections. More than the day-to-day “stuff” that has to be done, more than the rules that need to be followed, more than trying to get ahead. When we prioritize the needs and well-being of the people we care about, we create an environment where trust, respect, and love can flourish. I have not always done this successfully. In fact, I am probably much better at leading this way in my job than in my personal relationships. But I am trying. Fixing relationships is not easy, but I do try. Unfortunately, lately I have realized that many times instead of trying to fix the problems, I have tried fixing the people and that never works. Ever. Trust me. People don’t need to be fixed. They need to be seen, heard and valued.

So, how can we practice human-centred leadership in our daily life? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Listening…like REALLY listening: One of the most important things we can do to show someone that we value them is to listen to them. When someone is speaking to you, give them your full attention. Ask questions, show empathy, and try to understand their perspective. One of the things we all tend to do is to listen in order to find a place to respond or we plan the next thing we want to say. We listen for cues so we can prove we are right. But why do we always have to be right? Sometimes, the best things we can do to show another person we value them is to just listen so they know we care.
  2. Showing appreciation: People like to feel valued and appreciated. Take the time to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of the people around you. Express gratitude for the things they do, and let them know how much you appreciate them. These don’t have to be grand gestures. Simply asking about their day or their families or how they like to spend their time can make all the difference. An occasional lunch to show your staff you appreciate them goes a long way. The point is, we often feel appreciation for others, but rarely take action to show them. People want to know. So show them.
  3. Being open-minded: Human-centred leadership requires an open mind and a willingness to learn. Be receptive to new ideas and perspectives, and be willing to admit when you’re wrong. Remember that everyone has something to teach you, no matter their age or experience. Some of the greatest lessons I learn come from the people I serve who return to school as adults, sometimes many years after their “intended” graduation date. These folks share stories of lives lived and real wisdom gained from their experiences. I learn from teachers, young and experienced, who embrace opportunities to grow and to share their own learning. I learn from my children. I learn from the people I don’t agree with. All of their experience is valuable and valid and we will be better people if we can just open our minds enough to see a new perspective.
  4. Prioritizing self-care: In order to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself. Prioritize self-care activities like exercise, meditation, and quality sleep. When you’re feeling your best, you’ll be better equipped to support the people around you. Remember, we are all human. And Human-Centred Leadership is for us too.
  5. Practicing empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When you practice empathy, you show others that you care about their experiences and emotions. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to imagine what they might be feeling. Sometimes I sit with staff, colleagues, learners, strangers who find the courage to share the painful parts of their lives with me. Practicing empathy requires me to understand how they are feeling, to feel it with them and to strive to ease their suffering, not by fixing their situation, but by letting them know they are not alone.
  6. Encouraging growth: Human-centred leaders are committed to helping people reach their full potential. Encourage the people around you to pursue their goals and passions, and provide the support and resources they need to succeed. We all can find a way to support another person in their pursuit of growth.
  7. Create a safe space: Finally, human-centred leadership is about creating a safe space for people to be themselves. Whether you’re at work or in a personal relationship, strive to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or retribution. Allow people to be exactly who they are without trying to change them. This means letting our children be different from who we might have wanted them to be, encouraging our spouse to disagree with us sometimes, celebrating our friends’ wins, even if we haven’t had ours yet.

Human-centred leadership is all about putting people first. Whether you’re a leader in the workplace or in your personal life, prioritizing the needs, well-being, and growth of the people around you is essential for building healthy, long-lasting relationships. By practicing empathy, active listening, appreciation, and creating a safe space, we can create environments and relationships where people feel valued, respected, and supported.

As a human-centred leader, I have witnessed the power we all have to positively impact the lives of those around us. By prioritizing the needs of others, we create a ripple effect of positivity that can extend far beyond our immediate sphere of influence. When people feel supported and valued, they are more likely to go out of their way to support and value others, creating a cycle of kindness and compassion.

Of course, being a human-centred leader is not always easy. It requires patience, empathy, and a willingness to put yourself in the shoes of others. It also means being willing to admit when you’re wrong and to make changes when necessary. But the rewards of human-centred leadership are immeasurable. When you prioritize people over profit or personal gain, you create an environment where everyone can thrive.

This is Human-Centred Leadership. And it is the only way I know how to lead. Do I always get it right? Absolutely not. But I am willing to show myself some grace, to recognize that I am human and to try to do better. Hopefully the people I care about, the ones I work with, live with, love and laugh with know that I will always have their back, will always strive to do what is right and even if I fail (when I fail) I know that I am leading from my heart. So far it is working for me. And I don’t think I am going to change.


One thought on “People First: The Only Way I Know

Add yours

  1. Great article, I really like how you write from a first person perspective. Something I try to do however struggle with. I tend to get in the zone with putting an it together and forget to include myself in some of my posts. My wife Roze does a much better job in her posts.

    I like how you included prioritizing self-care in amongst your leadership suggestions. If we do not look after ourselves, we can not honestly maintain the mental energy to help others as best we can.

    One point that stood out most to me is “showing appreciation”. As great it is too let others know you appreciate what they do for you is all well and good. However taking the time to show them in same way will let them know you truly value them. Great advice, I will work on following it, thank you. Razz

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: