Humanizing Your Leadership

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter, brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s article is written by Dan Mushalko, VP of  Research & Media at the Innovative Leadership InstituteIt is a companion piece to an interview with Celina Caesar-Chavannes on Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future, titled Can You Hear Her Now?which premiered January 23rd, 2024. This episode was produced in partnership with the International Leadership Association as part of their 25th Annual Global Conference held in October 2023. 

Link to the entire interview:

Listen to the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future via Apple PodcastsTuneInSpotifyAmazon MusicAudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One.


“Oh, my God: look at all the baggage I’m carrying!”

With that realization, Celina Caesar-Chavannes began rediscovering her true self – an authenticity buried under layers of external expectations and stereotypes laid on by society, by culture…and by leaders. Even as a high-ranking member of the Canadian parliament (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, no less!), the -isms continued.

With that personal experience, she knows first-hand how much of our own potential we lose in trying to be people we’re not. For leaders, it means our teams can’t perform at their peak when our coworkers can’t bring their best selves to the office.

What can you do to uncover the potential of your “real” team? These steps will get you started:

1) Embrace your own authentic leadership.

Remember the proven maxim that your team watches you, copying your behavior as their real guide. Start by looking at yourself. Are you comfortable being and expressing yourself openly with your staff, or do you play a role or don a metaphorical mask when you’re in charge? Society and corporate cultures have various pressures for all of us; which do you have to deal with? Start looking inward, and you’ll be able to reach outward to appreciate the individuality of your team members, fostering even greater collaboration among them. You’re always a work in progress; so is your team. Grow together!

2) Navigate the inevitable power dynamics.

Power dynamics exist wherever humans gather. They’re not inherently bad; they can actually help us organize, problem-solve, and figure out who is genuinely best in which roles. They can also be leveraged to do great good! So, take a nice, hard look at your organization’s dynamics; knowing how to navigate them helps you create the inclusive, transformative environment that lets your team thrive.

3) Create inclusive practices.

Celina calls this the praxis of humanization – of moving from theory to the actual practice of humanizing your workplace. You’ve seen plenty written about inclusivity, including in this newsletter. The reality is that many businesses tout inclusivity and hold up its trappings but often have no meaningful metrics, follow-through, or buy-in from the C-suite. Yet, from morale to the innovation boosts diverse perspectives bring, the benefits are bountiful. The practical ROI question is: how much talent have you missed by excluding certain groups of people from your organization?

4) Cultivate emotional intelligence.

Re-read the very first line of this article. Then consider this: we ALL carry baggage. Developing your empathy and other forms of EQ allows you to see when people are dealing with a personal trauma, extra pressure, or just having a bad day. Shining EQ on yourself is important in developing your authentic leadership, too – when leaders don’t unpack their own baggage, they often cast it upon their teams. Those consequences are very real; last week’s podcast interview on law enforcement leadership pointed out that nearly all police chiefs bring major baggage to the job stemming from buried traumas experienced in their rookie days…which then contribute to some of the negative issues police departments are facing.

These are just a start. Celina has many more tips and personal examples in her book, Can You Hear Me Now? (available in hardback at, paperback at, and audiobook at, and in our podcast with her.

The importance of humanization in leadership can’t be overstated. At work, an inclusive and transformative environment is essential in today’s professional and societal settings, especially if you want to attract and retain top talent. By implementing these practices, you can significantly enhance your leadership skills and bring about positive changes in both your personal and professional lives.

This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from the Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future podcast episode Can You Hear Her Now? with guest Celina Caesar-Chavannes.



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To-do list:

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future on your favorite podcast platform, including Apple PodcastsTuneInSpotifyAmazon MusicAudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.

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