Our ancient Greek and ancient Indian forefathers had the wisdom to see people as people – accepting both our grandeur and shadow sides. They understood the need to develop the mind, body and spirit, orchestrating a harmony between all of our capacities to move us toward our highest potential.
When we introduced hierarchical structures into our societies through patriarchies, kingdoms and organizations, we transformed the human experience for the worse. We shifted from seeing people as people to seeing people as objects, with the goal of using discipline and ensuring compliance for the perceived individual or collective benefit. This view has been exacerbated by the Cartesian dualistic and mechanistic perspectives that ask us to believe only what we can see and learn about the Universe and ourselves through a logical analysis of parts. The Industrial Revolution and the more recent technological advancements have even further reinforced this way of comparing people with computers and robots. In the past, we modeled robots after people and now we are impressed when robots beat us in games of chess or Jeopardy!
What does it mean to see people as people? It basically means taking into consideration our emotions and our human potential. It’s integrating what’s possible with our incredibly imaginative selves with our emotional needs. This mind map can help you explore the topic:
When we take feelings and emotions into consideration, we humanize each other again and can therefore, tap into our most creative selves. As leaders, we need all the bright ideas we can get to deal with the complexity, diversity and uncertainty of today’s world. Just thinking that people are people, we will behave in ways that honor each person’s needs and points of view. When we respect each other’s emotional experiences, we feel heard, feel important and know that we are needed to contribute to the team’s goals. This approach creates a team culture through which people can thrive. Leading people’s higher selves can bring amazing results.
What does it mean to see people as objects? It basically means seeing people as efficient machines who can produce a lot of output and solve problems solely through logical means. This mind map can help you explore the topic:
Unfortunately, seeing people as objects has become today’s default approach. Most of us don’t even know that we’re doing this – that’s how imbedded it is in our collective habit. This perspective, however, reduces us to a machine-like existence that has little room for creativity (which is often blocked by unattended emotions) or thinking out of the box. It also keeps us in a state of constantly having to “prove” our productivity and worthiness at work, instead of using our energy to solve problems in a way that creates value for everyone. When leaders see people as objects, a focus is put on just paying someone a salary and replacing him/her if she can’t do what been expected. It’s the least effective way to get from point A to B and keeps us trapped in soulless organizations, doing soulless jobs.
If you want to transform your ability to influence people at home or at work, see people as people. Start by becoming aware of the paradigm you actually do use – how do you see people? Have you adopted the “see people as objects” approach or do you honor yourself and others with a holistic perspective?
Mastering the art of connecting with people at an emotional level elevates your leadership effectiveness beyond measure. And our organizations desperately need emotionally-mature leaders!
Eleni Pallas was a management consultant with Deloitte, now an Executive Coach working with global leaders and teams.