Leadership Lesson 8: Human Centred Leadership

Abhishek Paul
2 min readFeb 18, 2019

Simon Sinek put me on to Bob Chapman, the CEO of Barry Wehmiller. Bob is a leader who transitioned from a traditional aggressive “numbers first” management style to a people centred leadership style while continuing to grow his company over decades.

His transformation was triggered by a couple of everyday experiences, no near death miracles or visitations from above (like Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”).

The first was during the wedding of one of his employees. As part of the ceremony, the father takes the hand of his daughter and places it in the hands of the groom. What the father is actually saying through that act is, “Look here young man, my wife and I brought this girl into the world in love and have given her our very best for over 2 decades. We desire that she grows into the young woman she is meant to be. I am counting on you to take over my responsibility from now on.

It suddenly hit Bob that it was similar to the employees working in his office — they were all someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father. They were much more than a “resource” or “talent”, they were individuals of invaluable worth to someone. They had been entrusted to his organization just as the father entrusted his daughter at the wedding altar.

He then reflected on the way he treated them, and suddenly felt very uneasy. He realized the way he viewed and treated them had been very transactional. This was the first of his wake up calls towards a more human centred leadership style. His journey began with a simple yet dramatic change in the way he viewed his people.

Listening to the stories of friends and colleagues, I believe many of us would benefit from a similar wake up call.

“We’re all someone’s daughter

We’re all someone’s son

How long can we look at each other

Down the barrel of a gun?”

— The Voice by John Farnham

PS: I will share the 2nd incident in another blog. I have deliberately stayed away from issues of practicality, effectiveness, etc — which will be addressed in subsequent blogs.