logo image

ATD Blog

Leadership and Human Chemistry


Mon Apr 08 2019

Leadership and Human Chemistry

The human organizational leadership skill goes way beyond business and technical competencies. To be an effective people connector and to build successful contributors as valued, impactful drivers of business outcomes, a leader must have many special leadership components, behaviors, and principles—all founded on human chemistry.

Human Skills

Human chemistry is based on the utilization and application of human skills and capabilities. There are several leader-driven areas used as “people connectors” to enhance successful employee contributions within an evolving organization, such as:

  • establishing core values based on clear purpose along with building individual trust

  • driving skills to take risks in all forms of decision-making with a willingness to find solutions and to use courage to make changes.

  • finding compassion and humility to gain insights and deeper understanding into issues, as well as to establish valued judgements

  • influencing and driving engagement with total authenticity and exceptional truthfulness

  • collaborating with others in a genuine process that builds teamwork and relationships

  • communicating from the head and the heart with complete openness and honesty

  • growing and building connections through creative coaching and

  • active listening.

  • strategic driving of inspiring actions along with enhanced outcomes through the heightened desire for respect

  • building wisdom that balances behavioral curiosity with assertive energy.

People Champions

To enhance and escalate company performance successes, there is a need for a very human focus that is founded on a human culture with a positive physical work environment and an authentic people mindset. Happy and satisfied employees are strong and dynamic performers and contributors. Growth comes from more openness and sharing in making collaborative decisions and in connecting with organizational values as well as quality practices that propel a rewarding vision. Motivation at all levels can be both intrinsic actions, such as internal behavioral rewards, and extrinsic actions, such as external praise and fame. Compassionate relationships that occur are driven by goal-oriented employee-support approaches, using champions to deepen interactions based on empathy and curiosity. Key is that the people are the “leaders” of successful business outcomes. Yes, it is the “people chemistry” that enhances and strengthens the required leadership behaviors and competencies.

As already indicated, leaders need people who are focused on purpose as well as results and who have a willingness to accept ambiguity and complexity. The diversity of attitudes and assumptions are based on human individualism along with a team orientation (individuals plus groups).

There was an interesting study conducted by the Harvard Business School (Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger) in 1920s regarding worker behaviors at a Western Electric plant in Chicago. The performance of six women, assembling relays in a room separate from the main manufacturing hall, was carefully tracked. This team demonstrated that mental attitudes, proper supervision, and informal social relationships can boost productivity and job satisfaction. People functioning as a team and aware of being observed can influence as well as improve organizational performance and behaviors—the Hawthorne Effect.

Three Characteristics

There are three special leadership and people characteristics (humility, service, dedication) that were shared during the memorializing activities at the recent passing of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. Humanistic leaders use skills of providing appreciation as well as having resilience during challenging times. Optimism powers a hopeful focus on future organizational successes and also fosters the utilization of personal strengths as well as inner energy. Enhancing the clarity of the company mission and leadership values can boost the transformational dynamics by unlocking the unexpected opportunities and augmenting a handle on the how, why, what, and who. The real key is to have a heightened focus on others—the who!

So, let’s look at the three leadership characteristics.


Characteristic One—Humility

Leadership humility is demonstrated by humbleness and integrity, along with a commitment to authentic realism as well as a sense of humor. There is always a need to embody others and not have a focus on self. Leaders need wisdom to recognize the value of being down-to-earth and not having all the answers. This modesty is based on having an inner willingness to not try to over-impress everyone. Connecting and learning from others comes from being a humble listener and hearing from the heart. Showing curiosity and gaining alternative viewpoints and insights can further escalate humble behaviors. And, it builds a moral foundation based on respect, courage, and truthfulness.

Characteristic Two—Service

Leadership service is demonstrated by personal self-discipline and open devotion to others. Building collaborative friendships and professional relationships comes from utilizing strategic communication approaches. There is an exceptional excitement around discovering solutions to problems. Boundaries can be removed, and in so doing, multiple service benefits can be achieved. Connecting discussions and learning experiences occur across all levels and all jobs, and with a diversity of responsibilities. This service-focused characteristic removes judgement and enhances humbleness, and it comes from active listening, being kind, and helping others with their needs.

Characteristic Three—Dedication


Leadership dedication is demonstrated by the commitment to being accountable and loyal to many principles as well as ethical requirements. This dedicated determination to defined causes and beliefs can result in several beneficial outcomes along with a dynamic organizational environment. Driving clarity and connections to the company mission, team goals, and long-term vision helps people accept challenges, and actually encourages the stretching of the required commitments. Personalized listening with others, celebrating successes, working respectfully together, and having fun all result in the construction of an achievement culture with courage, optimism, and true dedication.

Closing Discovery Thoughts

Leadership is more than an art, a science, and a craft. It is about human chemistry and a complete focus on people along with their personal capabilities and competencies. Leaders need to continue to enhance the successes of others and also have self-awareness through others. Leadership is a lifelong learning journey based on core values, trust, and purpose.

Genuine relationships and ability to influence people are founded on authentic humility, collaborative service, and truthful dedication. Keep building human chemistry!

As per Aiden Wilson Tozer, an author and magazine editor, who died over 55 years ago, “Refuse to be average,” and “Let your heart soar as high as it will.”

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy