The dark side of human centric organisations

leadership Apr 05, 2017

I recently spoke about the dark side of entrepreneurship at a conference called The Business Romantic. The topic of business romance intrigues me, I love it because the two words don't really belong together unless you're up to something. But generally, when we think of the word business we don't automatically conjure images of flowers, dinners, love and beautiful vistas. In fact, the images that come to my mind are far more... pragmatic.

What I have come to realise, and Tim Leberecht has helped me with this, is to understand why this friction between romance and business is a good one. Why we should spend time making sense of both and then together.

One element of the business romantic speaks to the radical humanisation of the workplace. I am particularly romantic about this and have been working toward creating this for many, many years now. I created my own business so we could design it with this in mind, and offer services to help others do it as well. Though I've come to realise that often we only speak of the positives of having a human-centric culture and not so much the negatives. Now that I've said that, I might try to unsay it in that I don't really believe in positives and negatives. So I tend to use the words the dark side, partly because it's fun, and partly because darkness is not always bad or negative. In fact, you can have a lot of fun in the dark.

I wanted to talk about the challenges that come with being a human-centric organisation and also in business. Business means cycles. When you're up, everything is awesome, just like in the Lego movie. When you're down... well, in all honesty, it is harder to lead through the troughs in the human-centred organisation, because cost-cutting usually involves people losing their jobs, or some part of their income. And that is tricky at the most impersonal of times when you've built authentic genuine relationships with people it becomes even harder.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”Carl Gustav Jung

The link to romance is that when you create an organisation that has people bring their whole selves, their authentic selves, then they build a genuine connection with others. When these connections are severed, because their role is made redundant, or they choose to resign, then there is heartbreak. And I am not exaggerating. There is heartbreak because there is love. It might not be romantic love, but there is companionate love, and that feels just as intense as romantic love, just different. So when you're building a business that is radically human, you also need to build a culture that can withstand the totality of the human condition, not just the good bits. You will need to foster your leadership style to be resilient, vulnerable, empathic, committed, creative and resilient. Oh, I think I said that twice.

Being the leader of a radically human business requires a type of leadership that isn't modelled too often in business. In a radically human business, business is personal, and that is ok. It just requires a seriously human-centred style of leadership to ensure relationships are nurtured through the good times and the bad.

 Photos courtesy of the wonderful Julia Archibald -

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