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3 Ways Great Leaders Put People at the Center of their Organizations

Faculty Insights Industry Advice Leadership

Mary Ludden, faculty director for Northeastern’s Project Management and Leadership programs, discusses three ways leaders can bolster their organizations by putting their people first.


Have you ever worked in a high-performing organization in which every team member seemed to consistently demonstrate engagement, commitment, and passion towards their organization’s mission? Have you worked for a leader who made you feel as if you were the single most important person in the organization? If so, you’ve likely wondered how those organizations’ leaders achieved such positive environments. Luckily, by adopting three simple people-centric leadership strategies, you can ensure your organization is similarly set up for success.


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Three People-Centric Strategies for Effective Leadership

Leaders who have a laser focus on developing, retaining, and promoting internal talent create an environment of employee centricity which yields growth, innovation, and organizational persistence. How do these effective leaders create this culture—and how can you implement strategies to promote change and increase productivity at your own company? Start with these three strategies.

1. Great leaders put their teams first.

Great leaders always put their people first. When things go well, their team gets 100 percent of the credit; when they don’t, the leader shoulders the blame. Great leaders recognize accomplishments of all sizes by expressing gratitude, celebrating achievements, and developing recognition programs.

As a leader, you must create an environment where trust is at the center of the team’s value system by always recognizing accomplishments, providing a safe environment to fail, and providing unwavering guidance when times are turbulent. You, as the leader, need to be your team’s greatest cheerleader and not their greatest detractor.

2. Great leaders create development opportunities for their team.

Great leaders recognize that they didn’t start their careers out as such. Most likely, they had entry-level positions first and then expanded their responsibilities over time. Great leaders create opportunities for their employees to grow similarly by developing internal, upward mobility channels. Leaders should create development programs, training programs, and mentoring programs that enable the next generation of leaders to ascend to the top.

Great leaders invest in their teams and create strong processes for succession so that (eventually) they actually work themselves out of their role. As a leader, you should hire your replacement many times over so that the organization continues to thrive as new leaders assume the helm. The bottom line: Investing in your people, their skills, and their future will always benefit them, you, and the organization as a whole.

3. Great leaders communicate openly and honestly with their employees.

Great leaders communicate, communicate, communicate! When an organization relies on a framework of scarce information, employees tend to create their own urban legends and circulate incomplete information. Where an information vortex exists, agitators will be drawn to the opportunity to create dissension and spread mistruths. Don’t allow the gossip mill to become your communication conduit. Communicate what you can, when you can, and be explicit if and when you can’t communicate. And, for the sake of morale, be sure to communicate both successes and challenges.

Try to avoid the unilateral communication plague wherein communication is one dimensional and only top-down. If you rely only on others to gauge the pulse of the organization, you may miss the tremors that appear at the lowest levels of your company. To avoid this, meet with employees regularly, not only to ensure that your message is being heard, but to ask for feedback and listen to employee concerns.

Lastly, no one wants to work for an oracle; be candid, vulnerable, and transparent with your team. Leaders that appear to have all the answers may not be leveraging the expertise that exists within the organization leading to frustration and attrition amongst the employees. The greatest leaders rely on their team’s expertise, insights, and recommendations.  As Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Leadership in a time of great change and uncertainty is challenging at best. But by focusing on your most important asset—your people—you’ll be able to weather the ebbs and flows that impact organizations, all while increasing… Click To Tweet

Leadership in a time of great change and uncertainty is challenging at best. But by focusing on your most important asset—your people—you’ll be able to weather the ebbs and flows that impact organizations, all while increasing your organizational accomplishments.

To learn more about improving your leadership skills, download our comprehensive guide below.


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