Listening is a whole lot more than being silent while someone else speaks. Fully listening means giving your full attention not only to what is being said but also to the emotions behind what is being said. That helps a leader detect how strongly the other person believes what she or he is saying. Being fully present in the conversation also enables leaders to pick up on what is not being said and any hidden agendas in the room.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steven Howard.

Steven Howard is the award-winning author of 22 leadership, business, and professional development books. His most recent book, Humony Leadership: Mindsets, Skills, and Behaviors for Being a Successful People-Centric Leader, was published in August 2022. The book received a Gold Medal Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association, which called it “a significant work with an important mission.”

Humony Leadership was voted the 8th Best Indie Book of 2022 by the readers at and received a Bronze Medal in the Business/Leadership category from Reader Views Literary Awards.

His book Better Decisions. Better Thinking. Better Outcomes. How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Previously, Leadership Lessons from the Volkswagen Saga won three prestigious publishing industry awards (the 2017 Independent Press Award, National Indie Excellence Award, and San Francisco Book Festival Award). He is also the author of Great Leadership Words of Wisdom.

He is also the co-author of Strong Women Speak on Leadership, Success, and Living Well.

Howard is well-known and recognized for his international and multicultural perspective, having lived in the USA for over 30 years, in Singapore for 21 years, and in Australia for 12 years. He currently resides in Southern California and Mexico City.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Without a doubt, spreading the word on the Humony Leadership concept which is resonating with leaders around the world. Humony is a word I created combining Human, Humanity, and Harmony to emphasize the leading of people and the need for leaders to create workplaces of wellness and harmony.

Humony Leadership is a focus on people before profits. Not about people over profits. People over profits is an either/or proposition. People before profits means people plus profits. This is a change in leadership mindset. And I am very excited to spread this idea through the Humony Leadership book, my keynote talks, and my other writing.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

Dave Smith was my boss at Citibank in Singapore and he first opened my eyes that it is possible to put people first and still produce outstanding results. His actions and leadership behaviors have influenced my leadership thinking and writing ever since.

From afar, I would say Howard Schultz at Starbucks because of his emphasis on employees and customers over shareholders. We need more leaders thinking this way.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

I once delegated a new product launch to one of my team members without maintaining sufficient involvement in the project. I was busy creating the strategy for a new business unit and only did superficial check-ins with her. We filmed a TV commercial that indicated the new product could be used in places it couldn’t.

I definitely learned the importance of delegating without abandoning the team member. My mantra ever since has been, “you delegate responsibility, not accountability.”

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Most definitely it has changed. You must become a successful people-centric leader today if you want sustained progress and results. This is the fundamental premise of the Humony Leadership concept.

Leadership is more than just producing short-term, immediate results and developing followers. The number one priority for leaders is to develop people. One of the greatest gifts a leader can give to team members is to help them find and grow their talents. In doing so, both the leader and the organization will grow as well.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

Stop managing people. Stop thinking that your role as a leader is to manage others. Managing people is a 1980s construct. It is no longer applicable or relevant for today’s workforce. You manage things, processes, policies, and procedures. You LEAD people!

No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I cannot wait to be managed by my boss today.” And certainly, no one goes to work hoping to be micromanaged by their manager or leader.

People want to be led, empowered, coached, mentored, developed, and challenged with responsibilities and work that leads to their professional and personal growth.

The role of a leader is no longer to be a task overseer and a reporter of results. Rather, the leader’s role today, at every level of every organization, is to be a people performance coach.

Leaders need to unlearn management, relearn to be human, and learn to be people-centric leaders.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

Leaders and managers need to stop treating employees only as a means to an end. This mindset has contributed to millions of people worldwide quitting their jobs and seeking new employment with organizations and leaders that value them as human beings.

There has been a fundamental change in what people value; work is no longer the most important thing defining a large portion of the workforce. Working harder and longer is no longer worth sacrificing health, harmony, personal relationships, and nonwork responsibilities.

So the thing to begin doing is to start treating your team members as human beings. One lesson from the pandemic is that people want greater human connection. Leaders need to excel at the human connection aspect of leadership. Good bosses care about people for their entire careers, even when these people move on to other organizations.

Remember, your team members are human beings. They are people, not staff, assets, or resources. Start with seeing and understanding them as human beings with lives and responsibilities outside work.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

Leaders and managers need to understand the costs of these outdated playbooks and behaviors. And that these costs are not just financial or seen on a balance sheet.

The old mindsets and leadership models will continue to work, but with costs and harmful ramifications for organizations, leaders, employees, and society that are not necessary. After all, it is harder to grow your business and achieve desired results when one of your top priorities is replacing employees who have quit. The Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting trends are two of the biggest costs associated with leaders stuck in the past or relying on previously successful ways to achieve results.

The choice is straightforward. Remain comfortable with your old ways of leading, but pay the costs of high employee turnover and low employee engagement. Or aspire to be the leader and human being that your people, family, and community needs for the workplace, and your corner of the world, to become harmonious and thriving places.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

Transitioning from a successful Individual Contributor role into a supervisory or manager position is fraught with challenges, concerns, and worries. This is a profound change that requires a new skill set to be successful. It also comes with high risks of burnout, failure, personal dissatisfaction, team disenchantment, and team member disengagement. In fact, research shows that over 60% of new supervisors and managers fail to effectively transition from individual contributors to their new leadership roles.

New supervisors, managers, and team leaders need to understand ten major transition traps. I have a video on my YouTube channel (Steven Howard on Leadership) that describes these transition traps that derail first-time managers and leaders. I am also happy to send a free brochure on How to Transition Effectively into a New Manager or Supervisor role to your readers who contact me.

So, the first piece of advice I would give to new and emerging leaders is to know how to overcome these ten traps. And then focus on two other major pitfalls that disrupt the smooth transition to becoming an effective supervisor, manager, or team leader. The first is the inability to prioritize shifting projects, tasks, and deadlines. The second is not knowing how to lead people through change.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

Great question. Here are the five that I emphasize with the leaders I coach:

  • Listening
  • Responsibilities outside work
  • Lifelong learning
  • Agility
  • Harmony

Listening is a whole lot more than being silent while someone else speaks. Fully listening means giving your full attention not only to what is being said but also to the emotions behind what is being said. That helps a leader detect how strongly the other person believes what she or he is saying. Being fully present in the conversation also enables leaders to pick up on what is not being said and any hidden agendas in the room.

Perhaps one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we have learned to recognize that people have responsibilities outside work. And these responsibilities are incredibly important to them. Previously, the thinking was that, yes, people have lives outside work. And they were free to live those lives once their work responsibilities were done. That was the false premise of work/life balance. But now, understanding that people need to fulfill their nonwork responsibilities allows us to think in terms of work/life harmony and enabling people to meet both their work and non-workplace responsibilities.

Everyone, particularly people leaders, must embrace lifelong learning as a necessity, not a luxury. Gone are the days when a four-year degree provides anyone with all the knowledge needed to stay competitive in their professional career. The most important skill people need is “learning agility,” including having the curiosity and motivation to learn new things through a multitude of channels throughout the entirety of their careers and lives.

Leading people requires agility, flexibility, and adaptability. The old approach of “this is my leadership style, adapt to it” has no merit with today’s workforce. Leaders who express a “my way or the highway” attitude will likely find many team members opting for the door. Millions of workers learned during the pandemic that there is more to life than working for an intolerable, dictatorial, power-hungry boss. No longer do employees need to adapt to their leader’s style. Instead, leaders must have the agility to adapt to the needs of their team members.

Coming out of the pandemic, there is a growing desire for harmony in people’s lives. And this extends into the workplace. Admittedly, harmony is not a concept or description often applied to the workplace. But it should be.

Harmony in the workplace is more than the absence of conflict. It is greater than joyful camaraderie. It is higher than people merely getting along to accomplish tasks. Harmony is when people cooperatively collaborate, share information and ideas, help one another, have each other’s backs instead of back-stabbing, and enjoy contributing to an identified team or purpose. Now that would be a workplace enticing to all.

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American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

That is a great quote from a great leader. My approach is to have a major theme for each day. In my case, one day might be devoted to writing. Another day would focus on building my keynote speaking business. A third day will be dedicated to specific client projects.

Every Sunday, I look at my week ahead and schedule the themes for each day. On a day when I have several coaching calls or podcast interviews, I tackle task-related projects. On days with only one or two calls, I focus on more creative tasks like writing and thinking.

I also have two “to-do” lists. One is my Priority List of the 5–6 major projects on my plate. The other is my GSD list, which stands for Getting “Stuff” Done (if you get my drift). Every day I ensure that my focus is on my Priority List. Once progress is made there, I move over to the GSD list. I coach and encourage leaders to use this methodology, and the feedback I get from them is that this is a significant improvement over having one to-do list.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I want to be known as someone who inspires others to think and act in new directions. I take pride in being considered a thought leader. Earlier this year, I was named one of the Top 200 Biggest Voices in Leadership. That recognition meant a lot to me and has inspired me to put more effort into freely sharing my thoughts, knowledge, and experience with others, particularly with the Humony Leadership mindsets, skills, and behaviors.

I truly believe that being a people-centric leader produces sustained results and has additional benefits for leaders, team members, and even society as a whole.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

Email: [email protected]

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Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!