How Being Human Translates Into Influential Leadership


I met an extraordinary leader this week who shared some powerful lessons he learned while being both a father and a bouncer in a bar. This high-energy young man attended one of my Communication workshops and initially seemed a bit unfocused and outspoken. I remember him participating in one of my previous Leadership programs so I tried to draw on that past experience. I knew he was a well thought of manager so I treaded lightly to see where his enthusiasm might lead. First, he opened up to the class a personal story about his daughter and what he learned from her disability. We then broke up into smaller groups where a second story emerged that was even more compelling. I was astounded and knew he had a great deal to teach all of us in the session.

We began to talk about how leaders show they are actively listening to someone on their team. Most of the managers felt they were relatively strong listeners, including this male participant. He then blurted out:

“I have a daughter who is deaf in one ear and she taught me so many different ways to listen. I thought she wasn’t listening to me initially before we learned of her deafness. But I learned to face her, talk slower, speak more clearly and use a louder voice to make our conversations more satisfying. I brought all those skills to my team here.”





Quite profound and simple. Basic, yet not always done. Sharing his personal story showed us his human side that in turn allowed us to see another side of who he was and what was important to him. We also gained some new insights into “really” listening.

During our break-out group work, the young leader was adamant about telling his group about an important lesson he had learned while being a bouncer in this local bar. He wanted to show another transformation he made:

“When I first became a bouncer, I decided it would be better to be strong and extremely direct with the patrons. I would speak in a loud voice and bully them to leave at closing time. No one seemed to listen and I became so frustrated. There was a more seasoned bouncer there who seemed to be gentler with the customers. He would remind them several times before closing that it was almost time to leave. They all seemed to listen to him so I decided to give it a try- to be a human being and gently announce the closing time. It worked! I learned I didn’t have to be an ogre or loud. I just had to be human.”




Once again he transferred these lessons to his leadership style. That is why he is an influential leader.

How do you bring humanity to your leadership? How has sharing your human side helped you become more influential?

(photo credit)

12 thoughts on “How Being Human Translates Into Influential Leadership

  1. Terri – I LOVE THIS POST!

    Because it is filled with POWERFUL leadership lessons from a dad and a bouncer. Lessons any CEO could benefit from and they aren’t coming from a title they are coming from someone who cares, who wants to grow and who is using real life to learn and to teach.


  2. It is so interesting, Chery, that this leader also holds an important managerial position in his company where I was presenting, yet his leadership lessons came from other parts of his life.

    We can lead no matter where we are as long as we are committed to being accountable and respectful. I also admired the fact that he was able to look to a more seasoned leader for important strategies and tips. His open-mindedness was an extraordinary gift for him.

    Thanks for your great additions Chery!

  3. Parents are our first mentors and coaches. The lessons we learn from them stay with us for most of our lives, until they are disproven.

    The leader who shared his insights with my workshop was a great storyteller and able to display his humanity.

    Thanks Karin!

  4. I love the lessons of this young leader, Terri!

    Taking the time to treat the bar patrons as human beings rather than animals to be herded out the door at closing time…I can think of a slew of leaders who need to learn lessons on leadership from him!

    Thanks, Terri. Another terrific post.

  5. Excellent points, Terri. In addition to bringing humanity to leadership, many times storytelling bring humility as well. Some leaders have an easy time telling stories; others struggle with it as they either may not want to talk about themselves or just would rather focus on the people across the table from them. The reality is both need to open up a little more. Through story, greater connections can be made and greater work done. Thanks! Jon

  6. I love that you brought this person’s stories out of the classroom and shared them with all of us. It’s one thing to share lessons and another to share who we are, truly and vulnerably, and the lessons flow without having to teach a thing. Sharing stories creates bonds, relationships and ah-has like nothing else.

    Great post, Terri!

  7. You are so right, LaRae, that viewing others through the lens of humanity can go a far way for leadership in collaborating with both their teams and individuals.

    I was so taken back by this young leader’s ability to share his story in a meaningful way and to pull the teachings from it that could be applied to a corporate environment.

    I treasure those anecdotes and lessons.

    Thanks LaRae for always seeing the little things in my posts!

  8. Very interesting point Jon about storytelling eliciting humility from leaders. I think when people share their experiences through a narrative they empower themselves to dig deeper into the lessons they discovered. Those very teachings probably humbled them and that is exactly why they may want to share their story.

    Being humble is essential part of being human. Both display the vulnerable side of a leader which helps others engage in a more meaningful way with them.

    Thanks Jon!

  9. I have found that the most powerful learnings that often emerge from my training workshops are stories that others share of how they either made mistakes or learned something new. It is the exchange of what you call, “ah-has” that can end up being the most beneficial take-away for many of the participants.

    Not everyone can be open enough to share, yet when they do they surprise themselves.

    Thanks Alli for your ah-ha additions!

  10. I love when simplicity is more profound than complexity. Stories are a wonderful and memorable teaching tool. Stories bring home the point but more importantly remind of us of the point. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. I agree that storytelling is a simple way to make a significant impact and empower others to see a different perspective.

    When we hear a story and connect with the lessons learned, we are then able to transfer those teachings to our challenges and life events.

    The captivating nature of anecdotes is a powerful way to share our successes and mistakes learned.

    Thanks for stopping by Anita and sharing your wonderful additions!

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