Suggestions for more empathetic leadership in the year ahead

—Last year was tough on everyone, and there’s still lots of uncertainty about the year ahead. Humanise’s Valerie Provost offers some suggestions for humane and caring leadership—

2020. We gave it everything we had. We reinvented ourselves, adapted and helped each other. We worked twice as hard and were true cheerleaders for our teams.

We gave it our all, like it was a sprint, never imagining it would end up being a marathon. And we finished the year nearly out of breath but with a feeling of pride: no pandemic could ever shake our spirit, our teams, our culture.

After a few weeks of well-deserved rest, our batteries are recharged and we’re all set for 2021. Off we go again.

We’re diving into the new year with many key learnings under our belt (or the waistband of our sweatpants). Even if the future is uncertain, one thing remains: we can and must lead by example, by being human, by being sensitive and by listening.

We must display leadership that is empathetic, open to others and caring.

Here are a few ideas, inspired by the values we here at Humanise hold dear, to pick and choose from according to your reality:


  • Care calls, or remote caring: Call colleagues/employees randomly and at unplanned moments, just to see how they’re doing. You might be surprised at the discoveries you make and the light you bring to some people.
  • One intention, one mantra for 2021: Where attention goes, energy flows. To channel your energies in the right direction, organize a team meeting to set a common goal and mantra for the year. Define a common intention to approach the year in a positive way.
  • It’s the breakdown! Without Slack, what do we do? Instant messaging is a powerful but intrusive communication tool. Lead by example: mornings at work without distractions? Do we take off after 5 p.m.? Our employees deserve to have evenings and weekends to themselves. Any urgent matters to discuss? Before writing to the team, take a moment to pause and reflect. If it can wait until tomorrow, take some notes the good old-fashioned way and share them with the team the next day. Or make it a team challenge. Planned Slack breakdowns? We like the sound of that.
  • Vacation already? Oh, yes! Encourage your teams to think about their vacation time now. Unplugged moments have never been more important. 


  • Repeat connections: Do you schedule chats with your employees on a regular basis? No? Then it’s time to start. Remote one-on-ones are not always fluid, and Zoom fatigue is quick to set in. So take advantage of this time to make actual phone calls, maybe even take things outside for a healthy walk and talk? Think of it like feeding two birds with one scone.
  • Ask for feedback: Respond to the feedback, analyze the results and question some of the ways of doing things. And why not challenge your teams on the results and involve them in the implementation of initiatives to improve their happiness?


  • Don’t be afraid to talk to each other about the real business: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be generous with the information you have. Do you have team meetings on the agenda? These meetings are a good time to exchange ideas and take the pulse of your team.
  • You get a shoutout, and you get a shoutout. Everyone gets a shoutout! Recognize the efforts and good deeds of your employees and teams. Never underestimate how much fun it can be to receive a shoutout. Seriously, it can make someone’s day. And, above all, a simple thank you can go a long way. If you dare, introduce a ritual of gratitude in each of your meetings.
  • A healthy collaboration in a healthy collective: Approach your interactions with other teams with openness, respect and generosity. Healthy collaboration is the key to a healthy company.

Oh, and before we forget… first and foremost, take care of yourselves. To get through 2021, we need to be stronger than ever. Mentally, physically and emotionally.

We can never say it enough: your physical and mental health must be one of your top priorities. You can only be as good as the one you follow, so be your best. Set yourself a healthy lifestyle. Share a healthy habit you will focus on this year with your team, and invite them to share theirs.

On Friday, after a busy week of Zoom, Teams and Slack, take stock of your week—either on your own or as a team: Did you take care of yourself? What did you do well this week? What do you need to do differently next week to get closer to your goal?

And finally, be self-indulgent; allow yourself to do the things you enjoy. Nobody’s perfect. And that’s what makes us the true, warm and vibrant managers who will lead the way for tomorrow’s leaders with a human-centric approach.

Valérie Provost is the head of talent and culture for agency collective Humanise.

David Brown