ATD Blog

The Need for Leaders to Build Human Partnerships

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We are living in a fast-changing and constantly evolving world, especially in the United States. Consider a few headlines:






  • The social network, Facebook, has more than 2 billion monthly users globally.
  • Opioids and prescription drugs have become an increasingly addiction problem.
  • Renewable energy has surpassed nuclear power generation.
  • Climate change has caused the ocean waters to rise.
  • The U.S. government is challenged by a lack of leadership authenticity and trust.

Leadership is more than just a science, more than just an art, and more than just a craft. Leadership is founded on human chemistry—the ability for a leader to look inward and become fully self-aware, and the ability for a leader to look outward and to build an understanding of others. Specifically, leaders need to meet the needs of people, including employees, managers, directors, colleagues, teams, shareholders, and even external customers and personal connections.

But what does that look like in action? Essentially, the focus of a leader is not on themselves, but on others. Leaders need to communicate openly, listen more, be honest with the facts, have a dynamic vision, and be accountable for their actions. Leaders also need to be compassionate and empathetic, and able to use both emotional and social intelligence to build relationships.

Every leader has their own personal “chemistry” associated with their behaviors, thinking dynamics, managerial actions, performance approaches, and ways of connecting with people. As much as employees work to meet the needs of leaders and the company, leaders must also meet the needs of their employees.

There are six components specific to building strong human partnerships and bonds between leaders and employees. Let’s take a closer look.

#1. Connections and Direction

Employees want leaders to provide clarity of direction and expectations, helping to translate goals into actions and deliverables. In a motivating and supportive fashion, both the short-term goals and the long-term vision need to be carefully articulated through open communications. The goals need to be realistic and reasonable, yet have some amount of stretch. The vision message needs to be dynamic and compelling.

Leaders also need to share the company strategies authentically and to get others to believe in the vision by focusing on the future. In other words, they present the purpose for the organization and for each individual’s role. With an optimistic “line-of-sight” projected, the leader can help everyone embrace change and add value to an evolving business and its bottom line.


#2. Empowerment and Ownership

Employees want leaders to embrace their strategic responsibilities and to be fully accountable for their actions. With high levels of passion and enthusiasm for their leadership roles, they can help others address business challenges and impact organizational changes. Based on complete and proactive ownership of their positions, leaders can build employee loyalty and commitment to job achievement as well as to the delivery on goal expectations. Leader, also, need to empower employees to be involved in the building of global plans and strategies, along with the desired metrics. Leaders need to manage, coach, and support the employee population so that each individual can successfully execute the vision and jump obstacles when they surface.

#3. Recognition and Appreciation

Employees want leaders to use the power of caring—showing true emotions and feelings. They need to demonstrate gratitude and acknowledge achievements and contributions to the organization. Through praise and positive kindness, a leader encourages loyalty and commitment to the company. And, by building employee engagement and satisfaction, a leader drives higher levels of retention. The key to success is having leaders encourage employees to use their strengths, regularly review performance at all levels, and celebrate individual as well as organizational successes.

#4. Innovative Culture and Environment

Employees want leaders to always value creativity and innovation by others. This can be achieved by driving a culture of learning and an environment of development. Many diverse learning processes can help with this endeavor, such as encouraging the sharing of knowledge and information, formal development programs, online courses, and on-the-job learning experiences. Leaders need to accept some levels of failure by others and even demonstrate their own vulnerability by indicating that trying new things is okay. Leaders need to help others find joy through self-discovery and build a culture based on win-win solutions. Leaders need to support the growth of people and the development of talent for the future.

#5. High Levels of Honesty and Transparency

Employees want leaders to be open and authentic with their behaviors and with their communication activities. Consistency, honesty, and integrity are the foundational components to being a trusted leader. These leadership values are further affected by having personal humility and by sharing true feelings. Through their compassion and empathy, leaders build their credibility and respect, as well as motivate positive behaviors in others.

#6. Relationship and Partnerships

Employees want leaders to constantly build cross-functional and cross-organizational relationships. Through collaborative partnerships and teams, leaders can demonstrate their pride and confidence in others. Their leadership effectiveness is enhanced through agile and adoptive behaviors. To this end, leaders need to listen more, talk less, tune in, and make discoveries. Supportive and helpful behaviors along with no preconceived judgements—all of which can help build employee commitment to the organization.

Put It All Together


Bottom line: Leaders need to focus on people, employees, and teams to drive the successful performance of an organization. This means a critical element of leadership is human chemistry—the connection of leaders to PEOPLE and their HEARTS. To help you remember, consider the following:

P – People partnerships and passion for presence

E – Engagement and execution

O – Openness through transparency

P – Purpose and a compelling plan

L – Loyalty through leadership

E – Energy and enthusiasm

H – Honesty and humility

E – Empathy and ethical behaviors

A – Authenticity and acknowledgement of achievement

R – Realistic relationships and recognition

T – Trust and teamwork

S – Sincerity and spirit of compassion.

About the Author

Paul Fein is an organizational development consultant and certified life coach. As the the managing leader and director of The IDD Leadership Group, he a develops custom-created management development programs. Connect with Paul on LinkedIn. 

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