Written by Kate Billing, Founder & Creative Director, Blacksmith

Over the past 11 years of building Blacksmith and working in the leadership space with thousands of fabulous and flawed human beings, I’ve become utterly convinced of the need to drop the over-intellectualised and academic, or management-focused and tool-centric, approach many organisations are taking to leadership and its development.

I believe the time has come for an approach that is much more HUMAN

In the back half of 2019, I had the opportunity to take my thinking on this out from the confines of our client environments and into the public domain to share it with a new audience. Thanks to the folks at the Leadership Re-imagined Forum, a group of 70 HR, L&D, OD, Execs and people leaders gathered together in August to hear what I had to share – an introduction to the concept of human-centred leadership.

I say 70 because that’s the maximum number the biggest room they could get access to would hold. There was a waiting list. Enough for a whole second event. So Paul and I decided a second event was what we would do. And then that sold out in 24 hours. With ANOTHER waiting list big enough for a THIRD event! You get the picture.

We ultimately ran four of these three hour sessions over four months with 250+ people attending.

We only stopped because we ran out of year!

What did we learn from the experience?

  • The time is SO right for this shift in paradigm around leadership and its development – and not just with the HR/L&D/OD community. Many people who came along were Execs and People Leaders. In fact one company bought their whole Exec Team along together as the kick off to a two day offsite and the conversations our session sparked kept unfolding over the whole of that time!
  • The people who ‘get’ this are yearning for a tribe to belong to where they can learn, grow and share their experiences and experiments
  • I need to get out more and make my thinking and our GOOD work with GOOD organisations more visible to inspire others.

And what stood out to those who created the space in their lives to be part of the experience?

The 3-hour session is deep, wide and full of conversation and insight. There is just too much to unpack in one blog so here are the NINE BIG THINGS that stood out for the majority of people. I will be going deeper these on in future blog posts and events in 2020:

  1. Understanding ‘human context’ in all its dimensions is where everything starts
  2. Navigating ‘liminal space’ is the new challenge for leadership in our CAU (change as usual) environment of life and business
  3. There is a lot of talk about transformation as something with a beginning and an end, but the nature of human experience, life and the world as it is means it’s actually more about being able to successfully TRANSITION – over and over and over again
  4. The concept of ‘Map vs. Landscape’ and how we have led in the past versus what’s needed now and in the future
  5. Just going faster isn’t the answer. We have to create the space to go deeper (together and alone) so we can GO BETTER. Afterall, better is what we actually want
  6. Because of age and stage, most of the leaders in our organisations are experiencing ‘the u-bend of life’ and are struggling to find the capacity to lead in all the ways they are being called too in both life and business
  7. The importance of personal leadership in leading others, especially in high change and agile environments – “the best in you brings out the best in us”- we have to connect with our own humanness first in order to best lead others
  8. The duality between SOFT skills and HARD skills is no longer useful. The world needs leaders with STRONG skills – a new combination of leadership capability, capacity and consciousness.
  9. The development people now need requires something richer, deeper and more challenging than more tools, content and knowledge acquisition. If the experience doesn’t involve the opportunity to connect deeply with self and others and plenty of ‘productive struggle’ then it is not developing anything or anyone.

Above all, the experience of sharing my thinking and facilitating these four big group conversations gave me HOPE. Hope that there is a level of readiness in leaders and organisations to do the REAL work of leadership – becoming better humans and together making a better world.

If you’d like to be part of this conversation yourself there will be more opportunities in 2020 starting with the next two events in Auckland and Wellington. Find out more and register to secure your place:

I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, thanks for doing YOUR bit to make our world a better workplace.


P.S: Sign up to join our growing Fully Human Tribe HERE and we’ll keep you posted with upcoming events, new thinking and development opportunities!