Dr. John Demartini shares his wisdom on what makes a good human-centered leader in today’s business environment.
The textbook definition of human-centered leadership is easy to rattle off: it’s a leadership style defined or marked by humanistic values and a devotion to human welfare.
This meaning, however, just scratches the surface. You get a real sense of what a human-centered leader is when you talk to Dr. John Demartini, an expert on human behavior, a best-selling author, and an international educator.
Dr. Demartini knew from a young age that he wanted to master his own life and assist others in mastering theirs.
At 17 he dreamt of being a teacher and travelling the world to share what he learned, and today he does just that. “In broad terms, I do anything that helps people do extraordinary things and live amazing and inspired lives,” he shared with us in an exclusive interview.
“It’s always about the people.” -Dr. John Demartini
“True humanitarian leaders care enough about humanity to search out the needs, problems, and solutions for people in need. They find something that inspires them but also serves others. “It’s always about the people.” His focus for the last 43 years has been concentrated on meeting, reading, and learning about the great leaders of the world to understand how to be the best leader he can be in his own life. Human-centered leadership— which he also referred to as humanitarian-centered leadership—is “we instead of me” and focused on service, but not altruistic service.
Put simply: it’s real. Human-centered leadership is, obviously, not about the money, although many leaders who lead by this style you will find are incredibly wealthy.
Haruo Naito, CEO of Eisai Pharma, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, has created a unique company in an industry where deviating from how things are done can mean the loss of shareholder support. Instead of dedicating efforts to maintaining relationships with doctors, Eisai Pharma is dedicated to the end user: the customer. Eisai makes contact with every patient who uses their drugs, has relationships with these patients, and in turn gets feedback from each willing party to make sure the drug is doing what it’s supposed to.
When Naito was proposing this approach to the business, he was laughed at in company meetings and by stockholders. But, as Dr. Demartini reiterated, business is about people, especially for a company that produces medicine. Tadashi Yanai is one of the world’s wealthiest billionaires and founder of Fast Retailing, of which Uniqlo, a Japanese manufacturer of clothes, is a subsidiary of. His company’s mission is to make clothes that fit everyone’s unique needs; a certain portion of profits is dedicated to helping and empowering people around the world.
Bill Gates, perhaps Dr. Demartini’s best-known example, left his position as Chairman at Microsoft and has been changing the world ever since. Gates no longer needs to work—he hasn’t needed to work in a long time—but he continues to run his foundation with his wife Melinda because he feels the need to help people.
“When you care and help humanity, when you serve people and fill the needs of others through your work, you’ll be economically stable as well as intrinsically rewarded,” Dr. Demartini said.
Unfortunately not all leaders are like Gates, Yanai, or Naito. But when I asked Dr. Demartini why he thought this was, his answer was a lot less cynical than I expected. Some people, especially disgruntled employees, view their bosses as unwavering dictators. We’ve all had a boss or two that we didn’t like because of their inability to understand the human aspect of the work. But Dr. Demartini views the human-center leadership style as the highest level of leadership, one which takes a learning process that not all people master.
“Truth is not always in the hands of the masses, it’s in the heart of the masters,” he said. “There are millions of people who play a sport, but only a few Olympians; there are great numbers of people who are inspired and spiritually oriented, but only a few great spiritual leaders. In turn, many people run companies, but there are only a few that are great leaders.
“Although lower levels can be humanitarians, only a handful of people will make it to the highest level of leadership. This is a stage of evolution people will need to come to realize before a larger number of people become human centered leaders.” There are several roadblocks that can impede a leader’s human-centered progress.
“Truth is not always in teh hands of the asses, it’s in the heart of the masters.” -Dr. John Demartini
Dr. Demartini, although he did not name names, shared an anecdote of a pharmaceutical company’s CEO who had sold out for economic reasons— although this man loved education, and had always seen himself becoming a professor, instead took a higher-paying job in a less desirable field because he didn’t believe he could make enough money teaching. Now this man makes a living, then escapes his job.
“If you’re not doing what you love to do, you’ve missed the mark,” Dr. Demartini said. “Once you have meaning and purpose in what you do at work, it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. You’ll find these people will work even when they don’t have to, because it’s fulfilling.” Immediate gratification can be an enemy of human-centered leadership as well.
Leaders of large, publicly-traded corporations and companies are often subject to meeting quarterly or annual results, which can mean caving to shareholder pressure to match or surpass financial goals. This can often lead to ignoring or putting off employee, customer, environmental, or other concerns that could eventually improve results, but not soon enough to meet expectations.
Being a leader is oftentimes not an easy job: being a great leader is near impossible, but being a good person doesn’t have to be difficult. If we never forget that business is, in fact, about people, we can begin navigating the path to becoming human-centered leaders.