Moving towards human-centred leadership

Moving towards human-centred leadership
Many businesses today maintain an outdated organisational structure and leadership style, that are better left in the past.

Napoleon-ish leadership

In the early 18th century the French imperial forces swept through Europe, causing most of their enemies devastating defeats. The great success of the Napoleon campaigns befell the man with the very same name. As a general, he had revolutionized the military organization to fit a hierarchic pyramid structure, which turned out very successful when steering thousands of soldiers into war. Even though his forces eventually were indeed defeated, the hierarchic structure is a predecessor to the ones found in modern military forces.

“The Napoleon-ish hierarchy is also very similar to ones found in modern businesses, which to some extent makes perfect sense. Entering the market, outmaneuvering and defeating competitive companies can easily be compared to warfare,” says Rasmus Bertram, Co-founder of and CEO in Whyyy.

Sometimes you need someone with extensive knowledge to prepare a strategy and lead the attack - someone on top of it all whom by the assistance of officers gets commands distributed and executed down the ranks. But in the future, a choice of this organizational structure might be catastrophic.

Assimilation gives promotion

People in a position of power tend to share specific traits. They understand each other much better than those “below” them.

“If you are an ambitious careerist with high hopes of climbing the hierarchy-ladder, you tend to look at those already in a position of power. You assimilate them with the acclimatized idea, that if you act like them, you will be accepted and become one of them,” says Rasmus Bertram. He believes this idea is such a deep part of us, and so hard to let go. We are taught to fit into this sort of system as early as a child.

“School centers on society, which is mostly based on the very same top-down hierarchy we see in businesses and in the military. Schools teach how things are supposed to be done – constantly assimilating the ‘real world’, preparing youngsters to enter it themselves. They learn the ‘right’ way to do things, and indirectly that certain things are expected of them whether they become say an engineer or a salesperson”, says Rasmus Bertram.

Children unveil a better way

While we are still children, human nature thrives within us. What drives us is curiosity and this mysterious gut-feeling telling us what to do and not to. But growing older, this changes. Instead, we are taught how to assimilate to our surrounding to fit in. Curiosity is replaced by the fear of failing or being insufficient — this expresses itself when it comes to decision making in our career. Decisions are rarely based on gut-feelings or beliefs in a higher purpose. According to Rasmus Bertram, they are instead mainly based on performance indicators and statistics.

“Imagine the facial expression of a corporate executive just told by a manager that he hired a new candidate based on his gut-feeling. A happy face would not meet him for sure”, he says. Such employment should fall to the strongest candidate - meaning the one with the most impressive stats.  

Nowadays, everything is weighed and measured. In the attempt of not being a failure, employees assimilate their bosses, cover themselves with extensive workloads which drives them to the edge and sometimes over it. Not until they have hit the ground, do they realize the simple solution for their well-being is to put themselves first.

“All great inventions came about because someone believed in something the numbers didn’t underpin."

Rasmus Bertram, Co-founder & CEO, Whyyy

Employee retention will become easier

“Even though many companies like to state that they are people-focused, this is rarely the case. When you start digging, it turns out this means providing coaching, career planning and promoting work-life balance,” Rasmus Bertram says. In his opinion, this view on human nature will, in time, lead to the failure of many companies. Instead, he thinks they should cultivate curiosity and the idea of a higher purpose of going to work.  

Technological advances mean that knowledge requirements continue to grow. It takes several years for employees to reach a level, where they can carry out their work sufficiently. At the same time, frequent job changes and early retirement has become new idealized standards. If a company wish to achieve great success in this mercurial world, they need to be able to retain their employees. Off course you could do this by offering rude paychecks, but this would not satisfy the true human nature in the long run. Rasmus Bertram is confident setting people free would. It would make them happier, and that would benefit the business.

“All great inventions came about because someone believed in something the numbers didn’t underpin”, he says. What persistently motivates people is fulfilling their essential purpose, satisfying their gut-felling. These employees provide more than double the value than the ones just assimilating their way up the ranks.

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