Stop for a moment and think about your favourite ever boss. You probably admired their knowledge and skills, but I bet they are your favourite because of the personal connection you had with them. They are a human leader.

What is human leadership?

Most of us love the leaders who share their humanity. They take the time to connect beyond the status report, and own up to their mistakes.

You don’t have to know someone personally to feel this connection either. For example, Richard Branson heads up a hugely successful empire at Virgin – but that’s not why people love him. It’s his sense of humour, the fact that he never wears a tie (and has been seen in some dreadful jumpers) and because he takes risks and makes mistakes. He’s a real person. He shares his humanity, and we lap it up.

Human leadership can be hard

It sounds like natural advice: be a human leader. That’s like trying to ‘just be yourself’ on a first date. You try but you start acting like a complete idiot instead.

Letting go of work-life inhibitions is hard. We’re trained to focus on eliminating failure, driving success, and hiding mistakes.

It’s not about being BFFs with your team

You’re always ‘the boss’ to your team. This means that cosy lunches and boozy dinners with them can be fun, but you’ll still have an invisible divide between you.

This isn’t bad news though. Human leaders should also take their leadership status seriously, because your future could be in their hands.

How to be a more human leader

Here’s three things that I appreciate about some human leaders I know:

  • Own up. You made a mistake. Big wow (big yawn!). The chances are that your team already knows you messed up, but they’re not going to be the first ones to mention it in case you go nuts. They will, however, admire you for admitting it in public and sharing what went wrong.
  • Big up. Leaders are only as good as their teams, and your people deserve acknowledgement for their successes. Mention those who put in extra effort and they’ll bask in a warm glow.
  • Make up. Had a professional altercation or handled something poorly? Apologise sincerely and do it fast. If the incident happened in public, then make your apology public too. Being dressed-down in public and then receiving a private apology does not make up for whatever you did.

Who are your human leaders?

We want to highlight human leadership in the UK SME community, so drop us a note if you have a story to share. We’d love to know what happened and what it meant to you (and we can even keep the names and company details out of it!).

To share your story drop us a note at

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From Tamsin Fox-Davies

Tamsin Fox-Davies is the Small Business Evangelist at bob (, and spends her time sharing ideas & best practice around SME HR & HRTech. You can find her on Twitter (@tamsinfd), at her desk, or curled up on the sofa with one of her four dogs and a mug of hot chocolate.