6 Principles for Human-Centered Leadership for Higher Ed

Human center leadership people

At least 70% of an employee’s time is engaged by their supervisors. Therefore, leaders can make or break the atmosphere of the workplace. Human-centered leadership applies to higher-ed leaders as well as staff and students. We will define human-centered leadership and provide six principles provosts and other higher ed leaders can utilize for effective leadership.


What is Human-Centered Leadership?

Human-centered leadership focuses on people and culture first. It emphasizes the contributions people make to improve an organization through their creativity, skills, and talents. Human-centered leaders support people through difficult times, including change, disruption, and stress. By contrast, business-centered leadership focuses on technology, marketing, and innovation to grow an organization. However, human-centered leadership uses coaching, motivating, and pushing people to grow and innovate. Therefore, it adds value to an institution.


Provosts Can Develop Human-Centered Mindsets

Most importantly, provosts can adopt mindsets focused on being humble, empathetic, good listeners, and empowering. They are tolerant of complexities and develop systems thinking, understanding why problems occur holistically. Likewise, leaders demonstrate empathy, so people feel safe to create new ideas and align the individuals’ talents with school-wide goals. Overall, school leaders — including instructors — can adopt the mindset that people are critical for a college’s success.


Human-Centered Leadership Empowers

Therefore, with these mindsets, leaders develop skills and capabilities aligned with human-centered leadership. This thinking includes building genuine relationships by spending time with team members and knowing them well. Similarly, provosts can lead more, manage less, and believe that others can run projects. They can minimize direct reports and ensure meetings focus on results, ideas, coordination, and inclusion. Furthermore, leaders can understand that developing human skills is as important as having technical skills.


Human-Centered Leaders Understand How Suffering is Continuous

Besides that, provosts and other school leaders know the needs of others as a priority. This thinking includes knowing how human suffering does not stop when a person enters the workplace. As the post-pandemic world has shown, the mental, emotional, physical, and social well-being of people requires compassion. Leaders should acknowledge that stressors at work and home intersect. Thus, they can provide avenues to minimize stress and provide compassionate care. In this way, work productivity can excel.


Human-Centered Leaders Create Inclusivity and Connect With Their Teams

Likewise, school leaders need to be champions of inclusion, diversity, and equity to create fairness in the workplace. Thus, they must believe every individual brings value to the school. Their backgrounds — including race, origin, and demographics — bring strengths to the organization. Moreover, human-centered leaders will create diversity, inclusion, and equity in hiring practices, team building, and leadership roles.


Provost Set Aside Time for Reflection

Besides that, human-centered leaders need to take time for reflection and resetting from the stresses of their roles. The best learning comes from reflecting on what is going well and what improvements can happen. Thus, leaders can schedule time into the week for self-reflection. In this way, the philosophies of people-first human-centered leadership extend to leaders themselves.


Human-Centered Leaders Are Honest and Open

Finally, transparency and genuineness are essential to human-centered leadership. Provosts should be honest and open with staff and students. This honesty fosters trust and loyalty. Likewise, open communication makes personnel and students feel like they belong and contribute to the team effort. Leaders should share good and bad news, create an open-door policy, and listen to feedback from others.


In summary, for human-centered leadership to be successful, provosts and other school leaders must think and behave in new ways. They put people first. By doing so and adopting these six principles of human-centered leadership, the success of the school’s goals will follow.


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